October 30, 2014

Five Movies I Enjoy Most On Halloween

Maybe you will be home handing out the candy this year, which means you're going to need some entertainment in between the incessant ringing of your doorbell. A book is great, in fact a book is best in my estimation. But there are other ways to while away the time, like a video-game or a movie. For this blog post, let's talk movies.

When I'm looking for the perfect movie to watch on Halloween, there are plenty of choices.I wrote a blog post about my favorite comedic horror movies a few years ago, and honestly any of those would quite ably work as a quintessential movie for me this time of year, because they share two common traits that I look for in a great Halloween movie: horror and nostalgia.

Even more than Christmas, Halloween drudges up a metric ton of nostalgia for years gone by, whether from childhood, adolescence, or college. Trick-or-treating until our buckets/pillow cases were brimming with plunder, pranking friends with jump scares or copious amounts of toilet paper and silly string, or drunken revelry while dressed in costumes way to elaborate for such tight quarters. Christmas is great, but it's about getting up early Christmas morning, where Halloween is all about staying up late Halloween night. Come on, that alone should put it in the win column.

So here are five movies that I could watch any time of year, but enjoy the most when it is creeping closer and closer to All Hallows Eve. And no, Halloween nor any of its sequels will appear on this list, simply because it's way too obvious and I'm just not that big of a fan of the series.

1) The Evil Dead II (1987)

The first Evil Dead is good, but there is just something even more manic and mesmerizing about the sequel. Okay, it's basically the first movie with a spit-and-polish and a bonkers ending, but come on ... it's just fantastic. And this movie also has Ash with a prosthetic chainsaw in the latter half. Groovy.

I first saw this movie in the early 90s when I was sixteen (old fogey, right?) at a friend's house. It was probably the best of the bunch from our all-night movie marathon, and was the first time I'd ever done the whole staying up late with a group to watch horror movies. Good times.

2) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Honestly, the movie is kind of hit-or-miss with me. Gary Oldman, amazing. Anthony Hopkins, his usual, effortlessly great self. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder ... errr, like I said: hit-or-miss. This was another movie I saw at a house party. I didn't know many people there, but they were total movie nerds and were like a live DVD commentary for the thing, which was one of the few times I actually enjoyed people talking through a movie.

One of the trivia tidbits I remember being mentioned was the insane amount of fake blood used through the course of shooting. I never bothered to fact check, but somebody said it was the most fake blood ever used in a film. Given some of the scenes from that movie, I could believe it.

3) The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

From the Universal Monsters of yesteryear, this movie just has the most impact with me. I really only saw for the first time around five years ago or so, but hoo boy, did it pack a wallop. It picks up almost exactly where the first Frankenstein film left off, and really ups the ante with the characters being fleshed out--pun intended--even more, along with the outhouse crazy Dr. Pretorious as the new villain.

For the longest time, this movie was little more than the visage of Elsa Lanchester as the Bride emblazoned on posters and t-shirts. After finally seeing it though, it's really hard not envisioning some of those iconic scenes from the film.

4) The Monster Squad (1987)

Maybe, just maybe, this is the perfect Halloween movie for anyone who was a kid during the 80s. A group of foul-mouthed kids rally to fight the iconic Universal monsters? Oh hell yes!

It is a sad commentary on modern filmmaking to know a movie like this just would not stand a chance of being made today in its current form. I mean, with the flavorless pablum Hollywood doles out to kids these days in theaters, it is impossible to think we could ever see a scene like this again ...

5) Beetlejuice (1988)

Okay, this movie isn't nearly as frightening as it is just plain delightful. The cast is stellar, the story is just a perfect blend of the macabre and the whimsical, and the special effects are among the last batch of great SFX before CGI became the norm.

I could prattle on incessantly about the things that make this a wonderful movie for Halloween, but maybe this musical number led by the incredible Catherine O'Hara would offer the best testimonial.

So there are five of my favorites for Spooktober. What movies would you put on your list?

October 29, 2014

Chasing Tale [10/29/14]: Go Big or Ghomeshi

Chasing Tale is a recurring highlight of the most recent books to wind up on my bookshelves, as well as a rant about whatever is on my mind.

I do not give a damn about Jian Ghomeshi's sex life. He says he enjoys partaking in a "mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey? Fine. Knock yourself out, pal. I really don't need to know. But, near I can tell, the CBC didn't fire him because he's kinda kinky. They fired him because multiple women allege he sexually harassed/assaulted them. That's not kink. That's criminal. It also gives me the creeps.

Taking the guy at his word, I might be inclined to draw parallels between what he is now going through and what Zoe Quinn has been put through for the past few months via Gamergate. Where she has received ceaseless hostility online that was precipitated by the public ravings of an ex-lover, Ghomeshi finds himself the focus of "a campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend and a freelance writer." Except, actually reading about what's being alleged through the Toronto Star's investigation by not just one, but so far four women, the whole thing resembles less the Zoe Quinn turmoil than it does that of Sam Pepper's ousting from his pedestal on YouTube amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.

And now that the allegations have been made public, things are getting ugly. Jian Ghomeshi is receiving equal parts support and criticism surrounding his public response to the allegations and his unemployment, and the thus-far-unnamed women behind the allegations are also on the receiving end of criticism for not putting their names on the record or filing reports with the police. Well, looking at these statistics, it's little wonder a victim of sexual assault is hesitant to go to the police. And given the prevalence of “doxxing” these days, especially involving women, I would not be the least bit surprised to find the identities of these women splashed across the internet in the near future. Who is telling the truth? No way of knowing yet, but I doubt very much this "campaign" is orchestrated by some nefarious cabal of "jilted" women who have banded together like some Legion of Doom to take down Jian Ghomeshi and his team of Super Friends. While everyone screeches and hollers their opinion right now, there is a lot more information yet to be revealed.

Switching the focus to books now, Jian Ghomeshi has been removed as the host of next week's telecast for the 2014 Giller Prize, Canada's most prestigious literary award, and replaced by one of my favorite comedians, Rick Mercer. While Ghomeshi flourishes in one-on-one conversations as proven by his years in radio, I never considered him that great of an emcee. His banter in previous telecasts feels either pretentious or wooden, so I can only see the inclusion of Rick Mercer as a vast improvement for the gala.

I'm interested to see who walks away with the Giller this year, as the last few years have seen some damned good books get the big nod. Looking at the shortlist, Heather O'Neill's The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is the one I find most intriguing and my pick to win it all. We'll find out November 10.

And speaking of books, more found their way to my Kindle and bookshelves. Take a look.

Just So You Know I'm Not Dead by Anonymous-9 - I snagged this trio of short stories as a freebie last week.

Welcome to the Octagon (Fight Card MMA) by Gerard Brennan (as Jack Tunney) - Fight Card has a slew of novellas and short novels published, but this MMA-themed one came up as a freebie last week on the Kindle Store. This time around it's written by Gerard Brennan working under the Jack Tunney pen name.

Sword Sisters by Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe -No chain mail bras on these lasses. It's full body armor and a whole lot of badassery by the looks of it.

Dead Leaves by Kealan Patrick Burke -I snagged this freebie from Smashwords courtesy of Kealan. And it's free for a couple more days, so get yourself some complimentary horror short stories, why don't ya.

Exponential by Adam Cesare -Okay, Adam has a real knack for crafting a horror story that can wrench the gut, both emotionally and physically. This upcoming novel through Samhain Horror might be going for the latter with a tale of a lab mouse that just keeps growing as it goes on a rampage. This just might be awesome.

Suspended in Dusk edited by Simon Dewar - This new anthology came to my attention by Alan Baxter or John Everson or somebody. Either way, the list of contributing authors is impressive with its blend of new and old.

Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows by Jonathan Janz - I have not read any of Valiant Comics' Bloodshot series, but this Kindle Worlds ebook by Jonathan Janz was less than two bucks, so a cheap Janz book is good enough for me.

The God Project by Stan Lee - This is a re-release through Brash Books coming out soon. I didn't even know Stan Lee had written thrillers. Excelsior!

Burial Ground by Michael McBride - I received an Audible review copy from its narrator, Gary Tiedemann. It's a horror novel about an expedition into the Peruvian jungle after the discovery a tribe long thought extinct and a father out to solve his son's murder.

High Moor by Graeme Reynolds - I already have the Kindle edition, but I recently received the Audible edition, narrated by Chris Barnes, and listening to the first couple of chapters has impressed me already with the production quality. Werewolves in smalltown England? Oh my, yes.

Slush by Glenn Rolfe - Glenn has a new batch of short stories collected together this fall.

October Tales by Steve Vernon -So does Steve. Kind of a trend this Halloween, it feels like.

October 27, 2014

Red All Over: a review of Gail Simone's "Legends of Red Sonja"

Legends of Red Sonja
written by Gail Simone et al
Dynamite Entertainment (2014)
152 pages
ISBN 1606905252

Possibly the only thing more impressive than this book is the list of contributing artists and authors.

I hadn't read a Red Sonja graphic novel prior to this one, so I wasn't exactly well-versed in the history of the character beyond the few Robert E. Howard stories I've read. It took a moment to realize that this chainmail-bra-clad warrior was being presented this time around by an all-female assemblage of writers. Neat. After so many months of getting a chuckle at how ridiculous some comic book representations of female characters can be, I was keen to check this out.

It is an anthology of sorts, kind of a bloody epic fantasy version of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, as Red Sonja is being hunted by a motley crew of killers and scoundrels, each with their own reasons for wanting Sonja captured or killed. Gail Simone handles that main plot point, while the flashbacks and interludes that tell of her adventures and crossings with these men are each handles by different artists and writers. There's Mercedes Lackey, Nancy A. Collins, Meljean Brook, and on and on.

Maybe there are easter eggs and little winks-and-nods for dedicated readers, but I just don't know. What I do know is that despite the at-times-disparate tones of some of the stories, the sometimes jarring shifts in art style, the book as a whole is rollicking and boisterous in all the right ways. The guile and gruff of Sonja comes through quite well, both in her depictions and her dialogue.  It's been suggested by fans that reading this book is best saved for after having read Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues, a more straight-forward story helmed solely by Gail Simone. Perhaps that's true, but newcomers to the character should have no trouble falling under her spell.

As far as Red Sonja's future is concerned, she has a strong allies in Gail Simone and Dynamite.

October 22, 2014

Chasing Tale [10/22/14]: Fear and Loathing in the Mushroom Kingdom

Chasing Tale is a recurring highlight of the most recent books to wind up on my bookshelves, as well as a rant about whatever is on my mind.

Have you heard of lapsed Catholics? Well, I'm a lapsed gamer. I love video-games to this day, but ultimately the hobby was a timesuck and a moneysuck for me. Two resources that do not come in great supply, particularly when my drug of choice, books, takes up so much of those precious twenty-four hours.

My college days were during the latter half of the 90s, and a big chunk of free time was spent with the N64, our hookah of choice, gathered round it in a semi-circle on the floor for marathon sessions of Goldeneye, Street Fighter, and Mario Kart. I can recall the casual "video-games are for kids" attitude from folks who didn't play. The disdain paled, however, compared to that for fans of Dungeons & Dragons, which some of my friends played and I would casually mock as basement-dwelling mouth-breathers, or for fans of pro wrestling, of which I was a fan at the time during the height of its popularity and received ceaseless derision for being duped into watching a fake sport. Heck, despite the rise of superhero movies, even comic books put a bulls-eye on people's backs, because it's one more thing that prompts the phrase: Oh, I used to read those a a kid, but ...

But unlike D&D, rasslin', and even comic books, video-games are a multi-billion-dollar business with mainstream appeal. Heck, video-games were big in the 90s, but then came the 21st century and online gaming, and that's when the industry became huge. Bigger-than-movies huge. And because the video-game industry is such a behemoth and offers such a vast array of entertainment for consumers, it is fodder for all kinds of commentary just like movies, music, television, social media, and the longstanding entertainment medium of ... wait for it ... books.

J.K. Rowling is seducing children into a life of satanism and witchcraft? Oh, f**k off.

Right now there is a sizable group crying out for "ethics in gaming journalism" with allegations of collusion between the people selling games and the people reporting on games, kind of like the very cozy interactions between ESPN and the NFL. That sort of thing. But under the thick candy shell of consumer awareness is a chocolately center tainted by a vicious, anti-feminist, anti-progressive smear campaign spurred by the ex of a game designer, replete with ceaseless harrassment and threats of violence. That firestorm kicked off in August. Since then, it's gotten worse, in so much gaggles of idealogues and agitators with Twitter accounts can make it worse.

If you actually try to wade through the morass of hashtags and memes that range from the vague to the snarky, you wind up face to face with a contingent afflicted with a virulent strain of outrage. The bellicose pushback against a perceived invasion of feminazis, cultural Marxists, and social engineers plotting to bring down the video-game industry strains credulity, much as it does in every other art form that has endured similar bellyaches. Personally, I think it's going to take a lot more to bring down the video-game empire than some YouTube videos and Kotaku articles poking a stick at sexist tropes. If you go and read the tirades against people like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, and find they sound similar to the NRA's paranoia about gun laws, or the AFA's hysteria over homosexuals,  you're not alone. While there is a disjointed groundswell of support, many people, including some much heralded and beloved ambassadors of gaming like Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt, have denounced it, while gaming companies (the entities that are supposedly the instigators of all this corruption with their huge marketing and PR campaigns) go untargeted as near as I can tell and remain conspicuously silent. And the cacophonous catterwauling, along with that of knee-jerkers content to cast the entirety of gaming culture as a den of depravity, is drowning out what rational discourse remains.

I keep trying to apply the whole sad affair to our world of genre fiction, but it just comes out looking ludicrous in my mind. Years of grumbling about feminist fiction ignited one summer by a bunch of voracious readers incensed at book blogs and progressive authors, with the most vicious among them harrassing and even threatening a feminist writer, all because they feel the critical praise for her collection of cyberpunk poetry or whatever is undeserved and could only be the result of her having seduced book bloggers in exchange for positive reviews? Come on.

At its best, the bigwigs of the gaming industry are being taken to task for tactics akin to the music industry's payola scandal from decades ago. But that's tough to sift through, because at its worst is a conflagration of misanthropic, NIMBY-esque malcontents, tipified by rape and death threats that leave vocal video-game consumers of sound mind either shame-faced or batting down the rejects in an endless game of Whac-A-Mole.

Who knew, when we were chilling out and playing Mario Kart after a rough day at work/school, there was so much fear and loathing in the Mushroom Kingdom?

Anyway, I'm a lapsed gamer, like I said. Nowadays, books are my entertainment of choice. And while gamers greatly outnumber bookworms, we see our own little dustups. It's just that our grumpy cats and sad puppies are most often the writers, and nearly all of them refrain from cyber-stalking ... okay, Kathleen Hale wrote about stalking a reviewer, but she didn't issue any rape or death threats, so that's something at least.

Speaking of books, about time I highlighted the few that recently wound up on my bookshelf. Have a look.

Ebola K by Bobby Adair - A timely enough thriller that came out not even a full two months ago. This one features the aftermath of an airborne Ebola strain in the 80s and the rise of a new, even worse strain in present day. Oh, and it was a freebie last week, so you might still luck out.

Lamentation by Joe Clifford - Out this month is some New Hampshire noir. Who knew there was even such a thing? Anyway, I've heard good things and I'm eager to dive in and see what all the hullabaloo is about.

The Big Ugly by Jake Hinkson - Some more crime fiction, this time from BEAT to a PULP, with an ex-con hired to seek out another ex-con with a lot of people looking for her. Neat-o.

House Dick by E. Howard Hunt - Before this fella went to prison for his part in Watergate--hey, look! Another -gate!--Hunt was a pretty good crime writer. This private-eye novel from Hard Case Crime was only a couple bucks a week ago when I got it, so hey. Why not.

In the Shadows of Children by Alan Ryker - This is a novella due to come out mid-November from DarkFuse. I can't recall reading Ryker's work before, but I hear good things, so I'll give this a go.

Ash and Bone by Lisa von Biela - Another DarkFuse release from earlier in the year, this one a short novel that's a bit of a California ghost story. Radical!

What have you added your bookshelf recently?

October 21, 2014

An Immovable Object, An Irresistible Force: a guest post by Jassy de Jong, author of "Drowning"

An Immovable Object, An Irresistible Force
by Jassy de Jong 

When I think about the inspiration for my erotic romance Drowning, I can’t help comparing the storyline to the saying “What happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force?”

Let’s imagine you’re a young, attractive woman traveling in the South African bushveld when a flash flood washes your car off a bridge and you almost drown. You awaken to find yourself stranded on a luxury estate belonging to a handsome, charming billionaire who also happens to be the man who saved your life. The attraction between you is immediate, and it isn’t long before he offers you an indecent proposal – to enter into a hot, passionate sexual relationship, playing by your rules in bed and out of it, until the bridge is rebuilt and you are able to leave. That proposal is the irresistible force.

Now for the immovable object – you’re newly married, wedded to a high-profile celebrity photographer after a whirlwind courtship. You’re faithful by nature and determined to stick to your vows, no matter what temptation comes your way.

So far, it’s looking easy, right? Just keep saying no for a few days until you’re out of there. Not difficult at all… until you consider the complicating factor.

Your husband is turning out to be a jealous, abusive egotist. He’s been crushing you emotionally and you already carry scars and bruises from the physical hurt he’s inflicted. While you were with him every day it was difficult to gain perspective on the situation… you were too busy trying to placate him. But thanks to your enforced separation due to the flooding, you’re beginning to realize the extent of his vile behavior, and how it’s been affecting you. And, worse still, because you can’t get back to him, he’s already accusing you of cheating on him, even though you haven’t… yet.

How would you cope with this dilemma? What emotional and moral decisions would you end up making? Where would you turn in this pressure-cooker of a romantic conflict, as you try desperately to contain your feelings and keep control of the situation until, inevitably, the top blows off?

Those are the questions I asked my heroine, and that’s the situation she was faced with in Drowning. Would I have made the same choices as her? I don’t know. Would you?

Jassy de Jong was inspired to write her first novel, Random Violence, after getting hijacked at gunpoint in her own driveway.  She has written several other thrillers including Stolen Lives and The Place for Fallen Horses. De Jong also edits a hair and beauty magazine.  She lives in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg with her partner Dion, two horses and two cats. 

About Drowning: Sensuous but stifled New York City photographer Erin Mitchell thinks going to South Africa on assignment will be the perfect getaway. But when a flash flood washes away Erin’s vehicle and she is stranded at a luxury safari lodge, Erin’s romantic working vacation takes an interesting turn. She awakens from her near-drowning and meets her rescuer, Nicholas—hot and brilliant, successful and caring—not at all like her abusive husband. At Leopard Rock in the steamy South African heat, Erin faces the toughest choices of her life. Nicholas is ripped, he's smart and he's "no strings attached." The question of whether to give in or not to give in drowns Erin’s senses as she struggles with two impossible goals: ignore the exquisite physical charms of her host, and conceal every last detail whenever her controlling husband calls. On the other side, Nicholas faces impossible choices of his own, as his bon vivant playboy lifestyle may just possibly collide with feelings more powerful than lust.

Erotic. Exotic. Wild. Drowning sizzles in the African heat as one woman is stretched to the breaking point by the strength of her vows and the intensity of her seething primal desires.

Astor + Blue - http://bit.ly/1u8LJk5

October 17, 2014

Crude Awakening: an interview with Rex Burns, author of "Crude Carrier"

Rex Burns (b. 1935) is the author of numerous thrillers set in and around Denver, Colorado. His Edgar Award–winning first novel, The Alvarez Journal (1975), introduced Gabe Wager, a Denver police detective working in an organized crime unit. (http://www.openroadmedia.com/rex-burns)

About Crude Carrier: When a sailor dies under unusual circumstances, Raiford goes undercover on the high seas

The Rossi family received only a handful of letters after their son shipped out on the supertanker Aurora Victorious. The first dispatches were from Harold himself, describing the blend of tedium and excitement that defined life onboard the ship. The last communication came from the ship’s owners: four brief sentences informing them that their son had died and been buried at sea. Desperate to know more, the Rossis turn to James and Julie Raiford, the father-daughter detective team behind the Touchstone Agency. As the Raifords soon learn, work on the open sea is dangerous—and asking questions can be deadly.

When the shipping company stonewalls the investigation, James joins the Aurora Victorious as an electronics officer, and Julie digs into the proprietors’ shadowy background. International oil shipping is a ruthless business, and its secrets run as deep as the ocean itself.


Gef: In Body Slam, the first in this series, a childhood fascination of yours was included in the story, that being professional wrestling. With Crude Carrier, I assume it's your familiarity with working on ships that you draw upon? 

Rex: The only real work I did aboard ship was as a mess officer on the troopship Daniel I. Sultan (San Diego to Naha, Okinawa), and as the embarkation officer for a group of Landing Ship Tanks (LST's) ferrying a Marine tank battalion (Naha to Numazu, Japan, and return). Those chores did, indeed, give me a sense of the operational aspects and personnel relationships of shipboard life. In addition, as a child ("navy junior") I did have voyages short and long on both military and civilian ships. Before WWII, it was San Francisco to Manila aboard a Presidential Line ship (I don't remember the return voyage). Following WWII, the Navy was generous about allowing dependents aboard ships to enhance morale and, basically, to show off the vessels that had conquered the Japanese navy (at great cost). Latterly, there have been a couple vacation cruise tours. But the early "cruises" were far more helpful for Crude Carrier's setting than was the occasional holiday tour. The passage of time—like wind blowing sand from around rocks—has eroded all but the most indelible memories of the feel of a living ship, the brine smell and color of deep water, the ocean sky, the sense of being in a contained vessel on a vacant horizon.

Gef: Crude Carrier and the Touchstone Agency series isn't exactly your first rodeo. When you go into a new series, is there an aspect to that is daunting, giving up what you might consider a tried-and-true series to forge new ground with new characters? 

Rex: There is some challenge, of course, but the sense of novelty in sketching new characters and the opportunities of new settings offers plenty of compensation for the additional effort. The "Gabe Wager" series was restricted to Colorado in general and Denver in particular. This was very good for developing local color, and it allowed me to document the life and times of the city over the span of a dozen titles, which was one of my principal aims. But more and more, I wanted to move beyond the jurisdiction of my policeman. The result was a private eye series whose protagonists were based in Denver but free to go anywhere the story led. This "Devlin Kirk" series was brief—the sales didn't encourage a publisher to bring out more than three titles, and it's hard to maintain enthusiasm for work that may never be published. Plus, the vicissitudes of my personal life overwhelmed my publishing career at the same time. But writers write, and I've been fortunate that Mysterious Press/Open Road have enabled the publication of the "Touchstone Associates" series which offers the world to for the characters to explore. 

Gef: Was the research for this novel particularly intensive? Also, where in the process of writing does the research come into play for you? Are you getting the story down first or pouring over material beforehand and shaping the story around that? 

Rex: I don't know that the research for "Crude Carrier" was more intensive than that for my other tales—one of the satisfactions of the kind of writing I do is to place a protagonist in a setting or occupation that I would like to know more about (e.g., small-town rodeo: "Ground Money", or professional wrestling: "Body Slam"). It's fun to dig into the occupations that focus the lives of people, and to learn a little about the challenges and rewards of various endeavors. The juggling act for the writer is to present a believable—and reasonably accurate—portrayal of each occupation without slowing the story and boring the reader.

As for the process of research, it's more a continuum than a block of time. The idea of a story has to be tested against any innate interest an occupation or setting might have to see if there's enough to be curious about. If there's not and I find myself being bored with the setting or occupation, the odds are the reader will be bored too. But if, as usually happens, there's something there that catches one's curiosity, then the research keeps pace with the story. Fortunately, the computer has made it so much easier to look something up when the story needs it. And I find myself, like so many other browsers, spending a lot of time discovering little known facts about nothing that have no bearing on the story at hand—but which might lead to something later.

Gef: Being out on a ship for any great length, I imagine the thing works as its own little ecosystem floating atop the high seas. Is there a particular misconception among the public as it relates to that line of work, whether it be long haul or something more military in nature? 

Rex: Living in Colorado as I do, I should be surrounded by misconceptions about shipboard life—but being so far from any ocean, ships and sailors don't often become topics of conversation. Perhaps the salient misconception I've found in reading about seamanship is the idea that seafaring is a lonely life. However, my limited knowledge of those who go down to the sea in ships is that many, if not most, sailors prefer being aboard and away to being stuck on shore. The ocean looks different each day, though those differences are usually subtle; and there's always the next port to look forward to. You're constantly moving toward something, and the noon chit tells the crew what they accomplished in the last 24 hours. It does not surprise me that so many Navy sailors come from smaller towns in the middle of the country. 

Gef: You strike me as the type of writer that likes to keep things lean and firing on all cylinders when it comes to your novels. When you're writing is story length a big consideration for you or do you tend to let the water find its own level, so to speak? 

Rex: For me, the length of the work is decided at the beginning since the opening lines have a different feel for a short story than do those of a novel. There's more "space" when starting a long form, and the characters and conflicts don't have to develop quite as fast (or be pushed aside) as in a short form. In the "Constable Leonard Smith" short stories, for example, the reader gets a little of the protagonist's history in each story—often none, if the plot doesn't require it. There's just very little room in 3000-5000 words to fill out such a history. A novella, however, is a bit different, and, for me, much harder to write because of its additional length. One has to combine the quick movement and tight focus of the short story, with the wider canvas and complexity of character(s) of a novel. 

Gef: What would be the one piece of writing advice you are sick and tired of hearing get passed around? 

Rex: The one piece of writing advice that I'm sick and tired of hearing is "write what you know." I would advise "write what you're interested in knowing." 

Gef: When it comes to guilty pleasures, are there any books you've enjoyed that would fit the bill? 

Rex: I really can't think of any book that I've read with pleasure that has also generated a sense of guilt. If it's fun to read, hey! Enjoy! Usually, if I find no pleasure in the reading, I find no interest in the book and don't read it. The pleasures of reading a story—thematic, stylistic, subject, or any other appeal—are enough to justify guiltless reading. There are also those novels that one dislikes on first try, but grows up enough to read later in life. Any "guilt" generated by that experience comes from not having found pleasure in the first reading (Proust, for me). I have struggled with some books that I've had to read for classes or because someone wanted an evaluation. But even that kind of effort, while without either guilt or pleasure, can give insight into why something in the story-telling isn't working—i.e., they offer the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others rather than from one's own mistakes. 

Gef: What can readers expect next from you? 

Rex: I do like swash-buckling pirate yarns (no guilt, just pleasure) and historical novels, and would like to publish in those genres. We'll see ...

October 15, 2014

Chasing Tale [10/15/14]: Jolly Olde Censorship

Chasing Tale is a recurring highlight of the most recent books to wind up on my bookshelves, as well as a rant about whatever is on my mind.

A few days ago an article popped up on The Guardian. Long story short, a British man wrote a book highlighting his childhood experiences of sexual abuse. It was set to be published, but his ex-wife hired a lawyer who successfully got an injunction on the book's publication. You might be wondering on what grounds could such a thing happen, as I was since the book isn't about the ex-wife. Well, they have a young son and the ex-wife claims that the subject matter could traumatize the boy if he ever read the book.

Keep in mind that this is not a children's book. This is essentially a memoir, which I'm pretty sure is not the kind of book in high demand among children. I could be wrong, but unless this bleak subject matter is accompanied by some very macabre pop-up pages, I can't imagine the man's son, or any other child for that matter, would give an iota of a crap about reading it. But that reasoning was enough to literally stop the presses.

And on top of the rather insane ruling is the even more insane manner by which the British courts have rendered the entire case in secrecy:

The details of the case are shrouded in such extensive secrecy that the artist can be identified only as MLA, his exact form of performance cannot be described and his publishers can be named only as STL. His son, whose age cannot be published – other than to say that he is “approaching his teenage years” – can be named only as OPO. The boy’s mother can be identified only as BHM.
All this because a boy might--not will, only might--read a book.

Well, for god's sake, don't let that kid anywhere near these books either, if that's the case:

Factory Town by Jon Bassoff - Jon's second novel with DarkFuse keeps up the super cheery atmosphere--oh wait, did I say super cheery? I meant oppressively bleak. Yeah, because I don't think there are many musical numbers in the apocalyptic ghost town in which this book is set.

The Family Tree by John Everson - John's latest novel is out via Samhain Horror with a deliciously evil cover and a story involving what I think is some kind of demonic moonshine. Anyone else feeling thirsty?

Sleepy Hollow High: Horseman by Christopher Golden - Speaking of quadrilogy, here is the first book in Christopher's urban fantasy series. I think all four books are sold as an omnibus, too.

Santa's Little Helper by H.D. Gordon - This one is up for pre-order right now, set for release on Halloween. Just in time to get you in the Christmas spirit ... sort of. You can check out her guest post from a couple day ago too, if you're curious to learn more about the book (just click here).

Raiju: A Kaiju Hunter Novel by K.H. Koehler - Kaiju! It's just a banner year for giant monsters, I suppose. Last I saw on Monday, this novel was still free on the Kindle Store too, so you might snag yourself a cheapie if you're quick.

White Knight by Bracken MacLeod - An idealistic attorney finds himself in a last ditch effort to save a young boy and his mother from an abusive monster. This novella from One Eye Press has been on my radar for a while now and I finally decided to add it to my Kindle.

October 13, 2014

He Knows When You Are Sleeping: a guest post by H.D. Gordon, author of "Santa's Little Helper"

a guest post by H. D. Gordon

Let’s be honest, the whole idea of that Elf on the Shelf is just creepy. My friend sent me one for my daughters a year ago, but I remember the moment I received it as if it were yesterday.

I was cutting open the box the thing came in, when my phone rang. It was my friend; the one who’d sent the box.

“Did you get it?” she asked, upon my answering.

“Um, yeah, I got it.” I said, pulling the book and the elf doll out of the box. “It’s…cute,” I lied.

My friend laughed. “Read the book to the girls. It tells the story of how the elf was sent there by Santa, to watch over them until Christmas,” she said. “I’ve heard so many parents say that it really gives incentive for kids to behave, because you’re supposed to wait until the kids are asleep, and then sneak into the room and move the elf to a different spot in the house, that way the girls will think it’s flying back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa.” She paused. “Cute, right?”

My lips curled involuntarily as I took in the wide grin on the elf’s plastic face. “Adorable,” I said.

“It’s really popular with children,” she continued. “I think the girls will like it.”

I think I would have buried this thing in the backyard were it given to me as a child, I thought.

“I’m sure they will,” I said.

This answer pleased my friend. My daughters, however–apples from my own tree that they are–were not pleased. We ended up throwing the elf doll away, at my daughters’ adamant request. I didn’t tell my friend this.

Being that I am a writer, with a healthy interest in the macabre, naturally, a story was born of this little episode. That story is called SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER, and it is scheduled to be released on amazon on 10/31/14, but you can pre-order it now for $2.99.

So, if you were one of those children who kept your limbs carefully tucked in, so as not to dangle over the edge of the bed, where any number of unimaginable creatures could take hold, and yank you into the darkness, this book is for you. All those terrors your imagination coughed up as you laid swallowed in shadows, are between the pages.

But, be warned, you might end up throwing out your child’s precious Elf on the Shelf by the end of SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER.

And if you’d like to read a sneak peak of Santa’s Little Helper, you can visit hdgordonbooks.com, and go to my blog page to download the first four chapters.

Thank you so much to my gracious hosts, for letting me post here.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

H. D. Gordon is the bestselling author of THE ALEXA MONTGOMERY SAGA, THE JOE KNOWE SERIES, and THE SURAH STORMSONG NOVELS. She is a lifelong reader and writer, a true lover of words. When she is not reading and writing, she is busy raising her two daughters and keeping the world’s zombie population under control.

October 11, 2014

Some Things Don't Stay Buried: a review of Barry Napier's "Snow Angels"

Snow Angels
by Barry Napier
published in 2014
105 pages
ASIN: B00NT6700A

How far down can one man fall? For Winn, it's pretty damn far. Alcoholism has ravaged his existence ever since his son died. He lost his job at the lumberyard, now making ends meet with what work he can find cutting wood, the house where he had started his family is gone and replaced by a rundown shack, and his wife while still living with him has been cheating on him fairly regularly. The three years have taken a toll, but not near as much as when a stranger calls one morning to say he's abducted his wife and demands Winn bring his dead boy, Kevin, to him.

That'd sober any man up, I reckon.

Barry's latest novella takes a more low-key tone, more subtle tone, than the previous works of his that I've read. The tension is immediate, no denying that, but it's not a mike-a-minute, cat-and-mouse chase here. Winn is as much trapped by his own demons as the one tormenting him and his wife, and the guilt coupled with the helplessness, as he realizes he is even more out of his depth than he first thought, does a big number on his head.

It starts off quite grounded, but as Winn strikes out to find his wife and the man who has her, things becomes more skewed for him. He doesn't trust others to help him, and he soon learns there might be good reason for that, along with the possibility that they couldn't really help him if he wanted them to.

Barry Napier has been steadily building upon his work, dipping into different genres, but it always seems to be that these darkly tinged tales of down-on-their-luck characters facing insurmountably and potentially supernatural threats are where his work really shines. It's bleak, but borderline great.

October 9, 2014

October is “Vampire Books for Blood” Month!: a guest post by Scott Burtness, author of "Wisconsin Vamp"

October is “Vampire Books for Blood” Month!
A guest post by “Wisconsin Vamp” author Scott Burtness

Poor vampires. Always getting a bad rap for taking blood but never giving back. I’d like to help polish the tarnished image of those poor soulless souls by making this October “Vampire Books for Blood Month!”

I am bringing together authors from across the country to support the American Red Cross. Participating authors are pledging to donate up to 100% of their net royalties from October book sales to the Red Cross Blood services of their choice. To kick-off the event, I’ve pledged to donate 100% of my net royalties from sales of my horror-comedy novel “Wisconsin Vamp” to the Red Cross North Central Blood Services. I’m also hosting a raffle on Goodreads. Three winners will receive a signed copy of “Wisconsin Vamp,” a Wisconsin-themed postcard from the main character, Herb, and a t-shirt and gift bag from the Red Cross North Central Blood Services.

The event has a Facebook page where participating authors will post their book(s) and the percentage of their royalties they will donate. Visit the page often during the month of October, as new authors will be continually signing up. Every book you purchase will support the Red Cross.

Why am I doing this? Well, as I mentioned above, vampires get a bad rap and many would love a chance to give back to the community. More importantly, blood products are perishable and the need is constant to help prevent a shortage and ensure an adequate blood supply for patients. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days and platelets just five days, so they must be replenished constantly – there is no substitute. The American Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood. On average, they must collect 15,000 blood donations every day for patients at about 2,700 hospital and transfusion centers across the country. Also, the Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disaster, teaches skills that save lives, provides humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families.

The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. The money raised during “Vampire Books for Blood” month will help support their blood drives, disaster relief efforts and other great services.

If you are looking for a new vampire or horror novel this Halloween season, I hope you’ll visit the “Vampire Books for Blood” Facebook page, share it with your friends, and follow the fun on Twitter (#VampBooks4Blood). It may only be one month, but the difference we make will last a lifetime!

Vampire Books for Blood on Facebook:

On Twitter: #VampBooks4Blood

The American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region*:

The American Red Cross name and emblem are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, opinion or political position. The American Red Cross logo is a registered trademark owned by the American Red Cross. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org.