December 31, 2014

21 Books I Read and Loved in 2014

I wasn't gonna do it. I wasn't gonna write a list of my favorite books from 2014, because I didn't think I'd do it justice. I read a lot of good-to-great books, but there are even more I think stand a chance of making the cut as a fave of the year. Well, screw it. I'd rather highlight the books I actually did read, than hold back because of the books I haven't read yet.

In the past, I've put out fave five lists for novels, novellas, and anthologies. This time around I'm just making one big list of 21 books that I read in 2014--not necessarily published in 2014--and leave it at that. So take a look, genre mutts,  and let me know what you read and loved this past year.

I Am the New God by Nicole Cushing - This novella came out in the late spring and is just about as unsettling as you could ask for from a psychological thriller. You think it's weird to start, but wait ... it gets weirder.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig - It's not strictly urban fantasty, but it is strictly one of my favorite series. The idea of a protagonist that sees how someone dies just by touching them might be a one-trick pony to most, but Wendig keeps finding new vantages from which to tackle it. Not to mention how Myriam Black keeps evolving as a character. I really hope there's a fourth book in the works.

The German by Lee Thomas - A post-WW2 mystery novel set in Texas with one of the most gripping coming-of-age tales you are likely to find. This was one of Brian Keene's faves from a couple years back, and it's easy to see why. A phenomenal book.

Dark Forces: The 25th Anniversary Edition edited by Kirby McCauley -
Cemetery Dance brought this one back a couple years ago, and lemme tell ya, it lives up to the hype. Wanna get a sampling of some of the best horror stories from yesteryear, with stories from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Ramsey Campbell (as well as Stephen King's The Mist), then this is it.

The Blonde by Anna Godberson -
A bit of a surprise release for me, as it wasn't on my radar, but as soon as I started into it I was hooked. Marilyn Monroe as a Soviet spy out to get the Kennedy's? Oh yeah. It's a slow build that wrings every drop of turmoil and tension it can. Makes me wish Marilyn did more dark roles during her heyday. 

The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare -
A short, sharp read from Broken River Books. My favorite of Cesare's books so far, but there's a couple more from this year on my TBR pile that could knock it off its pedestal. An ambitious, if amoral, indy filmmaker finds a way to fund his latest slasher after a sexy psycho signs on as his star and assistant.

The Bitch by Les Edgerton - One more conviction and Jake gets the bitch (habitual offender), but that threat doesn't stop him from doing one more job to finance his new career and family. One of my first reads in 2014 and stands high among my favorite from the year. Just top notch noir.

Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long -
Forget Edgar Rice Burroughs. Gimme more Nathan Long and his ultimate biker babe turned Martian warrior. I am not a devotee of the John Carter stories, but I certainly appreciate the winks and nods along this thrillride.

The Troop by Nick Cutter -
I'm not great with body horror, but this novel did have the Maritimes as a backdrop with a Lord of the Flies meets Cabin Fever vibe going for it. And I've just finished Nick's new novel coming out in 2015, The Deep, and that's even better.

Deceiver by Kelli Owen -
Your wife is murdered, but as you dig deeper into the mystery of her death, questions arise about who she really was. This book is somewhere between novel and novella as far as length goes, but it is top-notch with a Hitchcockian setup that leads down a path only Kelli Owen could cook up.

Devourer of Souls by Kevin Lucia -
Coming-of-age horror is a domain ruled by the short stories of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, but Kevin doesn't shy away with some small town horror in this book, accentuated by a connecting narrative that makes it a real gem in the Ragnarok Publications library.

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories edited by Mark Morris -
Spectral Press is a bit of a vanguard for British horror, but this anthology offers stories from some authors beyond England's borders. What it doesn't do is stray from the mission of offering top-notch stories. If there's a second anthology in the works, it can't come soon enough.

A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride -
Holy moly, this was a stellar year for noir and dark crime fiction, and boy howdy, this novel just might take the cake where that's concerned. A stash of cash found in a trailer turned meth lab leads to a kind of southern gothic odyssey into the desperate and the depraved. This book will leave scars.

Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale - One of my favorite writers saw one of his novels re-released to coincide with the premier of its film adaptation. If you like revenge tales, you need to read this novel. One fateful home invasion forever alters the lives of two fathers. Seriously, read it.

Devouring Milo by Tonia Brown - Tonia's Skin Trade, and Lucky Stiff for that matter, did a great job offering a new twist on zombies, and this book does just as great a job on werewolves. The setup behind this one is almost Shakespearean in its execution, if not its language.

Savage Species by Johnathan Janz -
Monsters in the woods. So many monsters. If you have a fondness for those 80s-era monster flicks with people running every which way in the darkness, trying not to get torn to shreds, and doing an all-round terrible job at it, then you should really check this one out.

Borderline by Lawrence Block -
An oldie, but a goodie. The sentiment applies to the author as well as the book. I listened to the audio version narrated by Mike Dennis, who was about as perfect a casting choice as you could ask for with a voice tinged by bourbon and barbed-wire. Pitch perfect for a Mexican crime thriller.

Lock In by John Scalzi -
Not a whole lot of scifi this year, but I managed to check out this one. It was my first Scalzi novel, and I kind of see why so many like this guy. A great plot, with a murder mystery set around a near-future society dominated by victims of an epidemic and thee technology that lets them continue to live their lives.

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters edited by Tim Marquitz & Nickolas Sharps -
Give me all of the giant monsters. Godzilla was a bit of a disappointment this year as far as movies go. So much hype and misleading trailers just sabotaged any chance the actual movie had. This anthology, however, lives up to its potential and then some. Kaiju fans rejoice.

Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez -
Natural Born Killers meets Leaving Las Vegas. Or something like that. The third and maybe the best of the DarkFuse titles to appear on this list, Kate managed to take a crime thriller and turn it into a descent into madness ... almost literally for the protagonist. Just fantastic stuff.

The Wrong Man by Matthew Louis - Where Les Edgerton's The Bitch shows an ex-con making the choice to go back into a life of crime to benefit his new family, Matthew Louis' novel shows a former thug with a new family dealing with trouble when it shows up at his doorstep through no fault of his own ... well, except for having really lousy friends. It starts good, but ends great.

So there. A bunch more books came out this year that are sitting on my shelf that I ain't read yet, and a fair number of them could just as easily have a spot on this list given the praise they've received elsewhere. John Llewellyn Probert's Hammer of Dr. Valentine, Bite Harder by Anonymous-9, Joe Clifford's Lamentation, Eryk Pruitt's Dirtbags, Lee Thompson's A Beautiful Madness, the benefit anthology for James Newman called Widowmakers, Mark West's Drive, Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters, and the list goes on and on.

So what great books did you read this year? What should I be adding to my bookshelf heading into 2015?

December 30, 2014

Too Sweet to Be Sour: an interview with Glenn Rolfe, author of "Abram's Bridge"

Glenn Rolfe is an author from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. They currently reside in Augusta, Maine. (source:

Abram's Bridge: There is a darkness in this town, and it’s buried beneath Abram’s Bridge. When Lil Ron meets Sweet Kate under Abram’s Bridge he is mesmerized. And when he realizes this beautiful girl is a ghost, it frightens him, but also draws him to her. Curiosity and a drive to make things right lead Lil Ron into a tangle of small-town secrets involving his own father and other members of this otherwise quiet community. Bit by bit, he will uncover the truth about Sweet Kate, a story of heartbreak, violence…and fear. 

Gef: What was the impetus behind Abram's Bridge?

Glenn: I’m in a writing group (Tuesday Mayhem Society). We decided to try and write ghost stories for our Halloween meeting (this was 2013). I really wanted to impress them, and put my best foot forward. I tried to find some mood music to start me off. Bruce Springsteen has never let me down. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” has a line that says: “Tell ‘em there’s a spot out ‘neath Abram’s Bridge, and tell ‘em there’s a darkness on the edge of town.” That got me rolling. Style wise, this is pretty drastic departure from my previous release (The Haunted Halls). Where The Haunted Halls is a very vicious, no holds barred, chainsaw of a tale, Abram’s Bridge has elements that I dare say are pretty and dreamy. The character, Sweet Kate, was born from the influence Mercedes Yardley’s awesome collection, Beautiful Sorrows, had on me. She (Mercedes) opened a door for me I otherwise wouldn’t have dared to approach.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a novella as opposed to a full-length novel? Or, considering you recently released a collection, a gear shift into short stories?

Glenn: They all start off with an idea, or a scene. I usually get an idea right off if it’s got to be a bigger or smaller story. For me, short stories are certainly the hardest. They can’t miss a beat or they fall apart. Novellas are really fun because they allow you to stretch out more and really build the characters without having to make the story and its world too huge. Ultimately, I enjoy the process of a novel the most. Once you see write that first scene and open it up to the ether of whatever…it’s kind of magical. I don’t really plot, so it’s a real thrill ride to take on a novel. I’m amazed at where each one takes me. Eventually, you do have to make a loose idea map for where the story needs to go, but even those can be cast aside if the characters decide to take the story in a different direction.

Gef: How much does folklore, particularly local folklore, influence your writing? Are there any regional ghost stories that have sparked your imagination?

Glenn: Sadly, no. I mean, there are ghost stories and haunted places around here (Maine), but I haven’t really researched or dipped into them yet. I’m sure I’ll get around to it.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

Glenn: The strength is the people involved. That’s the writers and the readers. There are some really great writers out there right now. Outside of King, you have guys like Ronald Malfi and Brian Moreland (just to name a couple) that are writing really strong stuff each time out. You take a novel like Floating Staircase or Shadows in the Mist and you can’t help but be inspired. There’s also a boatload of smaller publishers perpetuating the pulse of the genre. Even with the self-pub world going as wild as it is, you need a publisher of some sort to hold us writers to a standard. I’ve done both paths, and I’d have to say, the confidence level is definitely boosted for the potential reader (and for myself as a writer, as well) in the piece of work if it’s had to pass through somebody’s quality gate.

Outside of the writing world, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have horror on TV exploding like it is. I don’t watch the Walking Dead, but I know a ton of people who do. I’m sure they are much more prone to pick up one of my novels now that they’ve got that horrific taste in their mouths.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Glenn: I haven’t really been given any bad advice yet. I’ve been given good advice that I’ve passed off and ignored. That, of course, came back to bite me. I’ve always been a learn-the-hard-way kind of guy.

I wish people would stop telling people that certain tropes are tired. Okay, that’s kind of hypocritical for me to say since I’m a notorious anti-zombie guy, but that said, I’m still willing to read a zombie novel if it’s done by a writer I trust. It just depends on what the writer does with the trope. If you write a vampire or zombie story, make it feel special. Don’t go paint-by-numbers. That’s where some of us younger writers run into trouble. For zombie writing, I took a chance on Nikki Hopeman (Habeas Corpse) and was rewarded with a fantastic novel. I just started Tim Waggoner’s The Way of All Flesh. There is a common denominator between those two authors, her name is Kristin Dearborn. If I trust someone, I’ll read anything (even a ombie story).

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Glenn: My guilty reads are Dan Brown novels. My best friend and some of my writing friends consider him garbage, but I have a lot of fun following Robert Langdon around. For movies, it’s romantic comedies. I love them, just ask my wife! The Wedding Singer, When in Rome, even something like Something’s Gotta Give. I’ll watch them with or without my wife.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Glenn: The Martian by Andy Weir (book), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (movie-it came out last year,, but I saw it this summer)—I also really enjoyed The Amazing Spider Man 2, but keep in mind, I didn’t get to go to the movies too much this year. As for new shows…the Rom-Com guy in me just discovered Rachel Bilson’s Heart of Dixie. Is that lame? I really want to check out Penny Dreadful and True Detective, but haven’t had the time yet. Favorite songs this year: “House on a Hill” and “Heaven Knows” by the Pretty Reckless, “High Hopes” and “Harry’s Place” by Bruce. There’s always room for some Taylor Swift in my world, too.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Glenn: 2015 has lots of stuff coming from me. Abram’s Bridge (novella, Samhain- 1/6), Boom Town (novella, Samhain- 4/7), and Blood and Rain (novel, Samhain- Release date TBD). My punk rock band, The Never Nudes, will be recording our second EP sometime this spring, as well. Other than that, I have a new novella (should be ready to sub by in a couple weeks) and two new novels that are close to finished. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with those.

Follow me on Twitter (@grolfehorror) or find Glenn Rolfe Horror on Facebook.

My personal favorite is my blog/website:

Thanks for having me, Gef. I appreciate it.

December 29, 2014

She's a Nightmare Girl Livin' in a Nightmare World: an interview with Jonathan Janz, author of "The Nightmare Girl"

About Jonathan Janz's The Nightmare Girl: Playing with fire has never been more dangerous. 

When family man Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler, he has no idea of the chain reaction he’s setting in motion. How could he suspect the young mother is part of an ancient fire cult, a sinister group of killers that will destroy anyone who threatens one of its members? When the little boy is placed in a foster home, the fanatics begin their mission of terror.

Soon the cult leaders will summon their deadliest hunters—and a ferocious supernatural evil—to make Joe pay for what he’s done. They want Joe’s blood and the blood of his family. And they want their child back. 

I had a chance to ask one of the best horror writers around some questions in the lead-up to the release of his new novel. Enjoy!

Gef: What was the impetus behind The Nightmare Girl?

Jonathan: As strange as this might sound, the origin was a Facebook post by one of my friends. She shared an anecdote about witnessing a woman abusing her child at a gas station, but before anyone could physically intervene, the woman got her child inside the car and drove away. At least, I think that was the gist of the story. My friend and others reported the license plate number, but I never heard what happened after that, nor do I know if my friend ever heard.

As horrific as this FB post was, it got me thinking. I wondered what I’d do in that situation. Joe Crawford, the protagonist of THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, is probably more like me than any other character I’ve written, so he reacts how I think I’d react. At least I hope so.

Gef: Is there any kind of a gear shift when writing a story with a strong supernatural component as opposed to one that doesn't?

Jonathan: Whatever I write needs to come organically, so there really isn’t much of a shifting of gears at all. Mostly, it flows intuitively and naturally as a result of my reading and my narrative sensibility. I’ve written tales with no supernatural elements (OLD ORDER and THE CLEARING OF TRAVIS COBLE are two that come to mind), but the majority of my stories do involve the supernatural. Regardless of whether there are these elements or not, I approach the story the same way. I have an idea of what the tale is about, and I put the characters in charge.

Gef: Child abuse seems to be in the news a fair bit more than usual these days, whether that reflects statistics or just a trend in cable news I don't know, with stories of pro athletes beating their kids or parents murdering their own. But do you think there's a raised awareness in society about the safety and welfare of children compared to years past?

Jonathan: Children are perhaps the most marginalized group of all. They’re constantly placed in positions of peril, and they’re constantly at the mercy of the adults in their vicinity. Parenting is the most important job in the world, yet there’s no vetting process for who can become a parent. Some people have children despite being utterly selfish, totally unprepared, and patently unequal to the task of nurturing a child.

So while people, like always, employ social masks, the prevalence of social media has made the unmasking of child abusers more commonplace. I don’t think the ratio of child abusers to responsible adults has changed; I think we simply hear more about it since there are more people in the world and more opportunities for their cruelty to be exposed.

Which brings me back to your question. Yes, I do feel like there is a raised awareness of child abuse, and yes, I do feel like more people are thinking about the welfare of children. This is a positive change, but it’s only a beginning. I’m not advocating for a Salem witch approach in which every parental glare or raised voice is conflated with child abuse, but I do believe people need to embrace the obligation to report obviously abusive behaviors and situations.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

Jonathan: The two biggest strengths of horror are its diversity and its universality. Regarding the latter, everyone feels fear. We all worry about our presents, our pasts, and especially, our futures. Horror appeals to us because it dramatizes the working out and working through of our darkest fears. At the very least, we can take solace in the fact that the people suffering in horror fiction aren’t us and our loved ones; at the very best, we realize that people can stare into the depths of their worst nightmares and survive—or even grow and be redeemed.

I also love how diverse horror is. Many people have sought and seek to compartmentalize horror, to diminish its scope and reduce its possibilities. I think because horror is such an emotionally dangerous genre that people feel better dismissing it as “just vampires” or “just spilled blood and glistening entrails.”

But horror is so much more. All great drama utilizes horror. I love the show DOWNTON ABBEY, which no one but me would associate with the horror genre. But consider the scenes (for those of you who watch the show) of Bates being persecuted because of his disability, of Elizabeth McGovern slipping on a bar of soap, of Thomas being treated viciously because of his perceived otherness. These scenes resonate with viewers because they demonstrate how brutal and unforgiving the human animal can be. And though horror shows us, unflinchingly, how monstrous humankind can be, horror also dramatizes the noble behavior of which we’re capable.

Therefore, for our genre to grow, we need to be more inclusive and more vocal about what horror can be. I’m bothered by those who want to treat the genre like some sort of secret country club with strict, often unreasonable membership requirements. Open the doors, I say, and let everyone taste of the riches horror has to offer. Embrace Gillian Flynn. Embrace Chuck Palahniuk. Welcome Cormac McCarthy with open arms. They all write horror; they just don’t call it horror. We should acknowledge their work for what it is and also point out the fact that authors like Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Melville, and Flannery O’Connor often wrote horror. This will help us usher in a new era in which people view the H-word as something beautiful, something meaningful, rather than a stigma to be avoided.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Jonathan: I think the worst pieces of writing advice all fall into the realm of negative absolutism. There’s a very human need to feel validated. Many human beings achieve some semblance of validation by invalidating others. This is understandable since it’s easier than, you know, actually doing something. I’m not against criticism, nor am I above it, but what I find in the writing world is far too much DON’T. As in, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, and please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t EVER do this one horrible thing that sets my teeth on edge!”

What I don’t see enough of is DO. Do emulate this specific trait from this wonderful author. Do structure a sentence this way. Do consider this when writing dialogue. Probably the reason there is so much don’t is because criticizing others provides one with the illusion of authority, a sense of correctness. Frankly, writers are the most blatant perpetrators of DON’T criticism.

If I make my living fixing cars, I’m not going to publically criticize a mechanic’s work unless I can perform the fix more effectively. Similarly, if I’m an author, I’m not going to vivisect the work of others unless I can do what they attempted to do better than they can. It’s why I’m floored by the willingness of some writers to dismiss others’ work, often as smugly and gleefully as possible. I think—and again, this is just my opinion—a writer would be better off pointing out great work and talking about why, specifically, it’s so great rather than hacking away at the work of others with a list—vague or specific—of DON’T.

You don’t get very far with don’t; you can go a long way, however, with a long list of do.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Jonathan: Hmm…I think the phrase “guilty pleasures” usually implies that something one enjoys is not viewed as worthwhile by a large number of people. But for me, as long as something enhances, improves, or enriches me or those around me in some way, it’s not something I feel guilty about.

My wife and I watch BREAKING BAD together (which most people would sanction), but we also watch a real estate reality show (the one in L.A.). Though the real estate show isn’t high art, it’s enjoyable for my wife and me, and really, anything we can share together is something worthwhile.

Filed under a similar heading would be the baseball and basketball games I watch with my son. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter that much if the Cubs win two games of a four-game series or three games, but the time I get to spend with my boy does matter. So even if watching a pitcher throw over to first base eight times in a single at-bat seems mindless, it’s invaluable to me because I get to share it with my boy.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Jonathan: These are always tough for me, partially because I’m always way behind on current literature, movies, television, and film. So I’ll just share a couple of new literary discoveries…

I discovered several new authors this year—not new to the world, but new to me. Bryan Smith is one I’d never checked out until fairly recently, but I’ve really, really begun to enjoy his stuff. He’s viewed by some as an extreme horror author, but I think that’s a little misleading. Of course, art can exist in the extreme realm just as it can in any other, but those who think his works are all shock and no substance are either not reading him or not paying attention when they do read. He has a fantastic narrative voice, and his syntax is very musical. The sound of his writing is pleasing, and of course the stories are engrossing too.

Three other writers I just discovered recently are John Sandford, William Goldman, and Imogen Howson. Sandford’s BAD BLOOD was absolutely riveting, and Goldman’s MARATHON MAN lived up to its considerable billing. I just began reading Imogen Howson’s young adult novel LINKED, and if it lives up to the promise of its opening chapters, it’s going to be a fantastic tale.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Jonathan: Well, my recently-published novella EXORCIST ROAD has been receiving raves from all sorts of readers, so that has been awesome. If any of you reading this haven’t checked it out yet, I hope you’ll give it a shot.

In January you’ll see my next novel from Samhain Horror, which is called THE NIGHTMARE GIRL. It’s one of my very favorites of my own stories. It’s an extremely personal novel, and one of which I’m very proud.

Later in 2015 you’ll hopefully see two more novels, one about werewolves (though it’s about far more than werewolves) and another one I can’t talk about yet.

Beyond that, I have several novels planned. I had a wonderful conversation with my main editor Don D’Auria the other day in which I shared ideas for three or four new novels, and he was very enthusiastic about all of them. I’m so excited to get to work on these projects; I just need more hours in the day to write them!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Gef. It’s truly one of the best book blogs around. 

You're always welcome, Jonathan. And if the rest of you want to check out The Nightmare Girl, you can always pre-order it on or directly from Samhain Publishing.

December 26, 2014

Chasing Tale: Boxing Day Edition

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Are you about done with turkey for the next little while? Feeling like you need a few days of recuperation before New Year's Eve? Yeah, don't we all. How about a new year's resolution? Do you have one of those picked out yet? Yeah, me neither.

I'm not sure I'll even do a reading resolution this year. My seasonal affective disorder always kicks in about now and this year's case of it has sucked the high spirits right out of me. Maybe in 2015 I'll feel just chipper enough to come up with something. Until then, however, I have a bunch more books to occupy my time. I didn't even make up any year-end lists this year, because I just don't have it in me to do it when there are so many unread books from this year glaring at me from  across the room.

My Kindle is still kaput and considering a fair number of these were scored on the Kindle Store, it'll be a while before I get round to 'em. But it's good to know they're there. What did you get reading-wise for Christmas? Leave a comment and let me know.

Crashing Through Mirrors and The 1st Short Story Collection by Anonymous-9 - Along with lining up an interview with Anonymous-9, which you'll be seeing on the blog in January, her new novella and first story story collection found their way on my to-be-read pile.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown - The sequel to this sci-fi novel is coming out in 2015 and I keep hearing great things about it. Then, out of the blue, NoiseTrade offered it up as a free PDF in early December. Boom. Done.

Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow by Ray Cluley - Spectral Press has a new novella coming out and this one with its arctic horror set in the desolate reaches of Greenland sounds like some timely winter reading.

Twisted by Michaelbrent Collings - I've been meaning to read a Collings novel, given he's one of the indy authors I've read good things about, plus he's sounds like an affable chap on the podcast interviews I've listened to, so this new haunted house novel might be just the ticket.

Tokyo Raider by Larry Correia - I bought the first few books in Correia's Monster Hunter series, but he also has a series called Grimnoir that sounds promising too, so when Audible gave me a list of titles to review, I figured I would give this new Audible-exclusive short story a go.

The Bullet Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan - I interviewed Rod back in August, which you can read by clicking here, but I never got around to buying his novel with the enticing premise, title, and cover art until this month when it went on sale for two bucks.

The Lost Level by Brian Keene - There's a new Keene novel coming out in January 2015, and it sounds like a bit of a departure from his more grizzly fare, as this feels like an homage to the stranger in a strange land type of tales the action/adventure genre enjoys. I am nothing if not intrigued.

DarkNet by John R. Little - One of the most mesmerizing novels I've read in recent years is John R. Little's Miranda. I should have hunted down another of his books sooner, but you know how things go. Thankfully, Journalstone Publishing had an ebook sale this month and offered up this one for a mere 99 cents. Easy buy.

Bluff City Brawler (Fight Card Series) by Heath Lowrance - A killer on the run from the mob with a showdown in the ring? Oh yeah, I think I'd like a front row seat for this one.

Albion Fay by Mark Morris - A new novella is due this spring from Mark Morris via Spectral Press. A couple of kids go exploring the English countryside while on vacation. What could go wrong? Well, leave it to Morris and Spectral to find a way.

Contamination Boxed Set by T.W. Piperbrook - I signed up for Tyler's newsletter this month and snagged myself a free omnibus ebook in the process. Neat-o. Some southern-fried apocalypse action? Don't mind if I do.

Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss - I could've sworn I had bought this book already, but in seeing Norman had a birthday in December, I double-checked the Kindle Store and lo and behold, I'd yet to add it to my TBR pile. Problem solved.

Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith - This one popped up as a freebie this month and it might have slipped under the radar, but a couple of writers whose work I enjoy gave it a thumbs up, so I figured I'd better snag it while the snaggin' was good.

Coffin Hop: Death by Drive-In by various authors - I actually won this from Axel Howerton during the Halloween Coffin Hop. It's an anthology chockful of stories that sound right up my alley. And the proceeds of any purchase apparently go to, which battles illiteracy in developing countries.

December 24, 2014

Have a Merry Merry and a Happy Happy!

I hope everyone has a merry Christmas or a reasonable facsimile. As for me, I'll settle for some spiked eggnog.

December 23, 2014

All's Wyatt on the Western Front: an interview with W.L. Ripley, author of "Storme Warning"

About Storme Warning: Vietnam vet and former Dallas Cowboys player Wyatt Storme just wants to be left alone in his remote Ozarks cabin – but violence and trouble have a knack for finding him. And when it does, he doesn’t back down. This time, Chick Easton, a hard-drinking, shockingly lethal ex-CIA agent, asks his buddy Storme for back-up when he's hired by the director of a big budget western to protect a bad-boy movie star who is getting well-deserved death threats. There’s also an annoying catch: the director wants to shoot the star’s new western on Storme’s land. Storme reluctantly agrees to it all, unaware that a sociopathic mob enforcer that he once put in traction, and in prison, is on his way and gunning for revenge.  

Available at 

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Storme Warning?

Warren: I'm a movie buff and love old Westerns. When "Springer's Gambit" was optioned for a major film I became interested in how they are made and thought it might be fun to place Wyatt Storme and especially, Chick Easton, in that setting.  Both characteristics are iconoclasts in that particular world.  It made for great tension and basically, some fun situations. I enjoy humor in writing.  I don't attempt to write comic situations, I let my characters react to any and every situation in a manner that fits their personality. If you try to write humor you often fail.  It should flow organically from the character's world view.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it writing-wise or marketing-wise or otherwise since the advent of digital publishing?

Warren: It has really been quite a ride.  I started off typing my books on a manual typewriter, then a dedicated word processor, submitting hard copy manuscripts.  The shift to all-electronic submissions is much easier.  With change, as a writer, I have learned I must adjust the way I do business.  Researching the change I've learned digital publishing is mushrooming and the first novel I wrote for the new industry was "Springer's Fortune".  Since, I've migrated to Brash Books and have found a home with people who both advocate for writers and love the printed word as much as I do.  They are on the cutting edge of this new industry and think they are the best publisher in the digital business.

Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Warren: I'm constantly researching -- talking to people, reading, watching great movies.  First I get the story down and write straight through to the end.  Rewrite, for me, is the best part of the process.  That done, I check online and even call experts in the field that I'm writing about.  Fortunately, I have a brother who was one of the top law enforcement figures in the midwest for 33 years and he is a great source.  I have called or interviewed others including a high-ranking investigator with the ATF. 

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the crime genre?

Warren: Great characters, great dialogue, a story that moves the reader from chapter to chapter with a satisfying denouement.  It is the same as any genre or entertainment venue.  Readers like to step into a world of action and adventure they might otherwise never experience.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Warren: There is no bad advice.  You just have to glean what you can from the source.  My books have received wonderful reviews from some of the top critics in the nation.  Of course, there is always someone who will nit-pick something in your book.  The worst advice for young writers, frankly, often comes from High School and College English teachers who have never written a book.  This is not a rap on teachers, merely that you will only learn to become a published author by reading and following the best writers in the business and the best in history.  Best source?  Read, read, read.  Read everything from various writers and genre and it will improve your writing.  Promise.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Warren: Guilty Pleasures?  I'm going to have to say the writing team of Matt Stone and Trey Parker who produce "South Park".  I feel terrible laughing at that stuff, but conversely am amazed by their ability to both make their point and make one laugh.  I think they are among the best writers in the visual medium working today.   Also love another cartoon show, "Archer" plus "The League" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".  Sometimes they're over the top, surreal and even too raunchy but they all make me laugh.  

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Warren: Several books come to mind.  I'm currently reading Ace Atkins "Cheap Shot" (Spenser) and Atkins has made the transformation complete -- Robert B. Parker would be proud of what Atkins has done with his hero. Also reading Tom Kakonis' "Treasure Coast" and the new Fox and O'Hare novel, "The Job" (Evanovich and Goldberg), lined up after that.  Looking forward to seeing "Horrible Bosses 2" and enjoy any movie that stars Denzel Washington, particularly like "2 Guns" with Mark Wahlberg which is one of the best buddy/action/comedy movies I've seen in years.  I, of course, watch and re-watch any and all Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies.  My favorite television show at present is the BBC production of "Sherlock".  The dialogue is amazing and the characterizations are among the best in any venue.  I love music -- everything from classical (Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart) to Classic Rock and even some country.  Music is the background to my writing and is always playing while I'm writing.  Music is the soundtrack of my books and I often gear the music to whatever scene I'm writing.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Warren: Almost finished with the first draft of a fifth Wyatt Storme, "Wind Storme", set in Texas.  It finds Storme hooking up with his old Quarterback, Murphy Chandler, who is one of the best characters I've ever developed.  Chick Easton will come along to help Storme sift through the cadre of thugs and lowlifes.  Also, in development I have a fourth Cole Springer roughed out and will move on it when I have finished "Wind Storme".  Also have two new novels with two new characters -- "Home Fires" and "McBride: Double Down" that are finished.  "Home Fires" stars, Jake Morgan, a young Texan Ranger, on temporary suspension, returning to his hometown to find his best friend murdered.  "McBride: Double Down" is set in Vegas where small time security director, McBride, is forced to recover a stolen briefcase for a local Mob boss or face the loss of his business.

For those who wish to keep up with my work and projects you can find me on facebook on my W. L. Ripley page and also on my W. L. Ripley page at

December 22, 2014

The First Volley in a New Horror Anthology: a review of "Dark Screams: Vol. 1" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Dark Screams Volume 1
edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Hydra (2014) an imprint of Random House
98 pages

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It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

I think that saying sums up this little anthology of horror stories fairly well. It's not a big book, weighing in under a hundred pages, but it's ten pounds of darkness in a five pound bag. Okay, okay, I'm getting a little too crazy with the metaphors too early.

Kicking off the fun is Stephen King, probably a guy who is as good at writing a short story as he is famous for writing his novels. "Weeds" may not be at the tippy-top of King's best short works, but if you enjoy the more monstrously weird tales he's come out with over the years, like "Battleground" for instance, then this tale of a fella freaking out over a pernicious fungus in his yard should be right up your alley.

One of the more viscerally charged stories was Kelley Armstrong's "The Price You Pay." While the narration is somewhat cut-and-dry, the wallop at the end delivered and psycho thrillers seem to me like a hard thing to pull off in short fiction a lot of the time. This one does a real good job of it.

A couple notable stories from Bill Pronzini and Simon Clark, whose novels I keep meaning to read, appear as well. And then things are capped off with the legendary Ramsey Campbell. This one just harkens back to one of the most tried-and-true setups in horror, that being the child and the elderly guardian and the thing that goes bump in the night. From that, there's a million ways to spin the tale, and Mr. Campbell does a heckuva job doing it here.

Folks who go in for short stories may be looking for something more expansive than five stories, but bear in mind this is but the first volume and a top notch one at that. I believe the second volume is slated for a spring release, which gives enough time to read one story every couple of weeks and salivate over reading the next batch. I know I will.

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December 19, 2014

Like-Minded Twisted Little Brats and the Stories They Tell: an interview with Kelli Owen, author of "Crossroads"

Kelli Owen is one of those stand-outs in the crop of horror writers to come along in this decade. One of her real talents is in the novella department, as exemplified by some books of hers that I reviewed (The NeighborhoodWaiting Out Winter, Deceiverand most recently Crossroads). I had the chance to ask her a few questions about Crossroads and writing in general. Enjoy! 

Gef: What was the impetus behind Crossroads?

Kelli: Oddly enough, two things. Firstly, why I wrote a novella. This was the last of four novellas contracted for Waking the Dead. I had initially turned in the novella Buried Memories for the Elemental series (previously having published Waiting Out Winter and The Neighborhood in that line of Thunderstorm books), and for whatever reason Paul (Goblirsch, owner of Thunderstorm) decided to ask me if I’d be interested in a 4-novella collection, rather than just another Elemental. I was flattered, and honored, and agreed. So I suddenly needed three more novellas to turn in. Two months later, this was the last of those.

Secondly, why I wrote this novella, was as a nod to not just the onslaught of teenagers in horror books and films, but to both poke fun and smile at the group of teenagers my son called friends. Yes, these characters are based on my boy child’s best friends, as punishment for the damage they’ve done to my walls, my fridge, and my sanity over the years. But it still makes me giggle, because each of them would act almost exactly as their characters did in the story.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a novella as opposed to a novel?

Kelli: I almost never go into something deciding it’s one or the other. I tell the story—the length it takes to do that properly decides whether it will be a novella or novel. Some ideas sound really big in my head, but once I map them out they are much shorter and tighter. Others sound simple, and then turn into a swirl of subplots, characters I hadn’t originally planned on, and a story that requires much more room to explore. While I always think I know what I’m writing, either a novel or a novella, I do so knowing it can change, and has a couple times.

Gef: Did you ever play with a Ouija board as a kid? What went through your mind when it was announced a PG-13 horror movie was being made based on the game?

Kelli: I wouldn’t say I “played” with one. I experimented a couple times and then ran the other direction. For those who didn’t get the memo: I really am a big chicken and prefer my horror nice and fictional. Ouija touches that unknown area of reality and I’ve always said, “we cannot hope to control what we do not understand.” Thus, my flight rather than fight proclivity, and some seriously creepy incidents in my life, keep my fingers far, far, far away from the planchette. We have one in the house, but I don’t touch it. Unless you count throwing salt at it when others pull it out to “play.”

The movie? I had high hopes. I really did. I love all things unknown in my horror movie choices, well, and evil kids—evil kids creep me out more than anything. The problem is, they took a great idea and failed to hit potential with it, failed the audience. But I’ve seen that a lot lately in movies. I don’t know if it’s because I’m old and jaded, or because I’m a writer and would have written it differently.

Gef: How much has folklore, especially local folklore, influenced your writing, or even your view of the horror genre?

Kelli: I grew up in northern Wisconsin. We didn’t have a whole lot of folklore there, just, you know, serial killers and cannibals. In second grade I used to make up stories, trying to create folklore I guess (like turning the creepy house on the block into a witch’s hiding place) to scare the other children. Eventually I found like-minded twisted little brats who also told stories, and by fifth grade we had a little circle of demented children scaring each other. I remember the china doll tale (I still shudder at the memory of that particular story) and one about a guy who nabbed people when they walked past a bush and then used their body parts for furniture. My mother overheard us on the porch that day and informed me after dinner, the story was based on facts—filling my tiny little head with the gruesome reality of Ed Gein. That changed my view on “stories”, and probably had a lot to do with everything horror-filled that came after it, including my writing.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

Kelli: In a word: reality. Just when you think there are no more taboo topics, nothing you can come up with to really scare people, the nightly news comes on. Seriously. We writers are competing with a world with more day-to-day horror in it than ever before. Sure, ours is a form of entertainment, but art imitates life—I don’t care that “they” say it’s the reverse. I don’t generally write about monsters or supernatural things. I write about the guy down the street, your kids’ bus driver, the little girl who witnessed something that changes her forever. Reality is both a blessing and a curse to our genre, I choose to use the blessing portion to my benefit.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Kelli: The worst advice I’ve ever heard? That’s tough. My gut reaction is to say there’s no such thing. Even bad advice is good to hear, because part of what you have to learn in this field is when to ignore advice, when to heed it, and when to balance somewhere in the middle.

But with my gut reaction out of the way, I need to make enemies and bring up the ever-popular “just self-publish it” advice often given to those who have been rejected. I always cringe at that. Yes, I am technically self-publishing my works now, but (except one) only after they have been already published somewhere else and the rights revert to me. By publishing through a house (if a little one), dealing with an editor, working with an artist, I’ve learned valuable insight, tools, and tricks those who skip that process will never gain. And their work may reflect it (note I said may, I’m getting nicer regarding self-publishing every year). I could go on and on about this particular topic, so I’ll stop it with just a thought: if you’re getting rejected, take a long honest look at why before you decide they’re all “just wrong.”

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Kelli: Guilty pleasures… hmmm. I don’t really have any normal ones. I’m not a reality TV person, or closet romance reader. So while boring, I guess my guilty pleasures would be anything at all I can find on authentic gypsy history (I probably have the best gypsy library in the country at this point), herbs and healing (I opened a shop this year for the softer side of me —, and old poetry. Yes, you read the last one correctly. My favorite place in the local used bookstore is the poetry corner. I just sit down right there and look at everything currently in the stock—for hours.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end list. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Kelli: You know, I’ve never done one of those lists. Ever. It’s strange. Maybe because I used to edit for other writers, so I was reading things long before publication and it threw me off to try and remember “best of” for any given year because in my mind “novel X” came out a year before it actually did. Or because I’ve always tried to avoid anything that could be considered nepotism and/or idolatry in a list form. But I have enjoyed some things this year. Babadook was the “creepiest” movie I saw this year, but Insidious scared the bloody crap right out of me. No really, like, clinging to the person next to me and hiding behind them kind of scared. Please do not clap near me in the dark. There’s a good chance I’ll punch first and then run. I’ve enjoyed a lot of non-genre novels and nonfiction. But within genre, I really enjoyed Jonathan Janz’s The Sorrows… though I think I scared him when I finished it and messaged him “we gotta talk.”

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Kelli: 2015 will be a bit crazy. Which is good, since I feel like I’ve been seriously slacking as of late. I’ll have the final two parts of Wilted Lilies, a serial novella I’m doing for Lamplight quarterly magazine (the first two portions are available now in volume 3, issues 1 and 2). You will also see The Hatch, the sequel to Waiting Out Winter, hopefully by early spring. And then I have to decide which order I’m doing a couple novels in, based on outside contracts, but you can look forward to Floaters (my Lovecraftian homage), Tomorrow (apocalypse with a twist) as well as a teaser short for it called Faith No More, Gracie’s final installment (from Left For Dead and Fall From Grace), and an unnamed novel about a new kind of vampires I’m rather excited to play with. Yes, I said vampires.

As far as keeping up with my shenanigans, the website is always a good place for updates, or my author page on Facebook (, especially for sales and specials. And now I’ve got a Patreon page ( for those fans who really want to dig around my head and get exclusive behind the scenes goodies. And of course, I’m on twitter, but that’s me the person, not me the writer, and I cannot be held responsible for what craziness comes out of my fingers in 140 characters or less!