March 31, 2015

Glenn Rolfe’s First Loves? Superman, Cyndi Lauper, and Aliens!: a guest post by Glenn Rolfe, author of "Boom Town"

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy 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. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the ghost/mystery/thriller novella, ABRAM'S BRIDGE (Samhain Publishing, Jan. 2015) and his latest novella, a Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, BOOM TOWN (Samhain Publishing)
Look for his punk rock band, The Never Nudes, on Amazon and Facebook.
Check out his website:

 “Glenn Rolfe’s First Loves? Superman, Cyndi Lauper, and Aliens!“
By Glenn Rolfe, Author of Boom Town

Ever since my dad took me to see E.T. (I was five-it was my first movie), I have been pretty obsessed with aliens (and Reese’s Pieces). I remember crying when they took E.T. away and he got sick. I remember loving the cereal that came out (I think it was peanut butter flavored). And of course I had a stuffed animal version of my favorite extra-terrestrial.
E.T. was the gateway. He was the friendly, welcoming guide. It was the first time I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind that sparked my real interest in the little green men. I remember sitting on the couch spellbound by all the sorts of amazing scenes. When they flew over the streets, when they lit- up the boy, and of course, the final musical/light communication between them and us all had me entranced. Who were they? What did they really want? Richard Dreyfuss was crazy for them. I was on my couch sharing in his fascination.
Two of my favorite super heroes had alien connections, as well: Superman (of course) and Ralph Hinckley aka “The Greatest American Hero.” The scene that played in the intro every week where the ship comes to deliver the famous red suit? Yeah, that was huge for me.
Okay, but these are all happy memories, right? Yes, the gateway and the welcoming committee. There were two other shows on TV that were must-see for me. My dad introduced me to Star Trek (the original, in re-runs). And it was through Star Trek that I really got my first view of E.T.’s with not so nice intentions. Still, those episodes were all in outer space. They were all in different galaxies. The show that hit home was V. Yeah, they came here to take over. They most certainly did not come in peace. They even wore skin to appear human…but beneath they were these green lizardy-looking creatures–fucking terrifying!
The first Predator was also a slice of badass alien with intent to kill. My dad rented every Arnold movie as soon as the videotapes came out. This one was not your average action flick. Like the Terminator, Predator is definitely a Horror/Sci-Fi film, and one that slithered under my skin.
There’s an obvious movie for horror fans in here somewhere, right? Well, I never saw Alien until much later in life (I know, ridiculous!). The movie that fucked me up was Fire in the Sky. The story of the abduction of Travis Walton. This one has some seriously creepy scenes. When Travis has flashbacks to what happened upon the spacecraft, it’s pretty much what every abduction horror story is made of…if you have seen the film you know what I mean.
I’ve seen plenty others since, but Fire in the Sky is still my favorite. It has stuck with me through the years and refuses to let go. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. Just remember, when your friends tell you to stay away or to get away from something none of you can comprehend…you should probably listen.
I hope you’ll give my novella, Boom Town, a try. Maybe you’ll see where some of these influences pop up and make their presence known amongst the unknown. Thank you for reading along.

About Boom Town: Terror from below!
In the summer of 1979, Eckert, Wisconsin, was the sight of the most unique UFO encounter in history. A young couple observed a saucer-like aircraft hovering over Hollers Hill. A blue beam blasted down from the center of the craft into the hill and caused the ground to rumble for miles.
Now, thirty years later, Eckert is experiencing nightly rumbles that stir up wild rumors and garner outside attention. The earthly tremors are being blamed on everything from earthquakes to underground earth dwellers. Two pre-teens discover a pipe out behind Packard’s Flea Market uprooted by the “booms” and come into contact with the powerful ooze bubbling from within. What begins as curiosity will end in an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.

March 30, 2015

Dining on Death: a review of Kevin Lucia's "Devourer of Souls"

Devourer of Souls
by Kevin Lucia
Ragnarok Publications (2014)
157 pages

Available on 

Stephen King and Robert McCammon are arguably the two kings of the hill when it comes to coming-of-age horror stories. Well, if Devourer of Souls is any indication, Kevin Lucia is scratching and clawing his way to join them at that mountaintop.

The book isn't a straight-up novel, but rather two separate novellas joined by a throughline akin to Bradbury's Illustrated Man. And it's the first of the two, "Sophan," that I feel is the standout and has me singing Lucia's praises.

Set in upstate New York, the interludes feature four men (a teacher, a preacher, a doctor, and the sheriff) discussing the strange happenings in the area at a diner, with a book that contains much of what's happened thus far.

"Sophan" relates the tale of a young boy and his group of friends during a summer in which childish games and family secrets turn deadly. Nate, the narrator, worries about his pal Jake. Well, pal might not be the word, since Jake has a huge chip on his shoulder and winds up being more of a pain in the ass to Nate and the other boys most times. It's when they check out the flea market and see Mr. Trung's table of trinkets that Nate finally sees something in Jake's eyes that he hasn't seen before. Fear.

The brooding tension that builds along the way, coupled with the ever escalating weirdness surrounding Mr. Trung and the game that so fixates both Nate and Jake, make for a very memorable and highly satisfying story. It's the kind of story that makes a reader eager to see what else its author can come up with.

Fortunately, readers don't have to wait long, as the book leads right into the next story, "The Man in Yellow." Set in a neighboring town, and slightly reminiscent of King's Needful Things, with a stranger the narrator comes to call the man in yellow rides into town with promises and health and prosperity, if only the townsfolk will come round to his way of worship. It's a seductive call for most in town, but for the narrator whose physical limitations leave him feeling not only tempted, but burdened as even his own father seems drawn to the preacher's sermons of healing the sick and injured. It's a story with some real old school menace to it, and a touching friendship put through the wringer and the narrator and his best friend soon find themselves at odds over how the man in yellow might help them both, and what price might ultimately have to be paid.

Devourer of Souls feels almost like an homage at points to the best of what horror provided back in the 80s, while also displaying Lucia's deftness at getting right to the heart of his protagonist and putting each through an enthralling bit of hell to show it. If these Clifton Heights tales are just the beginning of what he has in store, I look forward to seeing just what that might be.

March 26, 2015

Chasing Tale [March 26, 2015]: You Know It's Fake, Right?

Max Landis posted a video on YouTube last week that is basically a 25-minute love letter to WWE. More than that though, he's a fan of stories, of fiction, and it really doesn't matter if you're a fan of rasslin' or not to enjoy the video. It's just fantastic.

It's timely too, since Wrestlemania is right around the corner. The problem is that if you're a fan of storytelling, WWE has been a real disappointment these days. It used to be pretty straight forward. One guy had a shiny gold belt, another guy wanted it. Boom! Instant conflict. And characters mattered. Wrestlers, whether portraying an exaggerated version of themselves or saddled with an outlandish gimmick, were afforded a lot of leeway in honing their characters.

Nowadays, there is a very disjointed and inorganic process in the presentation of the wrestlers and their storylines. And canon is not something Vince McMahon, as the company's showrunner so-to-speak, really seems to care about. Professional wrestling, by its very nature, demands a healthy suspension of disbelief, but sitting through a 3-hour soap opera is a chore when the creative direction doesn't just strain credulity, but curb stomps it.

I miss the days when there was a method to WWE's madness. The kind of WWE Max Landis reminisces about in his YouTube video. That was storytelling. And it's by virtue of mainstream media and the general public already thinking so poorly of rasslin' that WWE and Vince McMahon avoid the scrutiny and stature of more popular shows, because if Vince McMahon ran The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones the way he does Monday Night Raw, he'd have been fired by now. Or the show would've been canceled.

And, oh look, more books have arrived. Let's have a look at those. The stories in these are fake too, but no one seems to mind.

Walking In the Flesh by Peter Bailey - A sci-fi thriller about a U,K. assassin with an artificial body that basically blows himself up, and his consciousness downloads to his next body.Hunh. I've seen too many Bugs Bunny cartoons not to picture an ACME robot exploding in Daffy Duck's face. I'm sure this takes less of a slapstick approach.

The Video Killer by David Eisenstark - One's a sociopath, one's a full-blown psychopath. One's a music video director, one's a dancer. One's looking for fame, one's looking for a way out. Who's gonna win?

Children of the Mark by Michael W. Garza - Michael's got a new one out through Severed Press, this time a nail-biter of a novel by the sounds of it with a couple teens running for their lives from a cult hellbent on summoning a demon. I got an interview with Michael coming up, so watch out for that.

Borealis by Ronald Malfi - I grabbed this novella off the Kindle Store, as it's been on my watch list for a while. Some fellas out on a trawler in the Bering Strait find a young woman on an iceberg. Yeah, nothin' weird about that. Oh, but do ya think the weird kicks up when they bring her on board? Definitely.

Grave Wax by Kelli Owen - Here's another novella I scored on the cheap, this one from a gal who is steadily becoming one of my favorite horror writers. Her stuff is some of the most authentically chilling horror I've read in the last decade, so if you're not already on her bandwagon, then I suggest you fix that.

Milk-Blood by Mark Matthews - I'm listening to the Audible version of this horror novel, which is narrated by Jay Wohlert. This one deals with a little girl born into heroine addiction, and that may sound dark enough in tone, but I hear this book goes even darker.

Delphine Dodd by S.P. Miskowski - The first of a trilogy of novellas from Omnium Gatherum with a decidedly gothic tone it would appear. Look in April for a little bit more on this series, with a possible giveaway in the works too, so stay tuned.

The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave by J.H. Moncrieff - This novella from Samhain Publishing that's due for release towards the end of spring sounds like it could be deliciously creepy. I mean, haunted dolls are one thing, but a haunted teddy bear? This I gotta see.

Last Dance In Phoenix by Kurt Reichenbaugh - A May release through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing that looks to be steeped in noir. Kurt has an abiding appreciation for vintage crime fiction and this one looks like it taps into that vein.

Black Cathedral by Maynard Sims - Plenty of horror authors I've yet to read including the tandem of Maynard and Sims. I wasn't sure where to start quite frankly, and then I saw this novel was priced cheap on the Kindle Store and I figured I could start there.

Man Down by Roger Smith - I have a few of Roger's thrillers already, but this one popped up as a freebie through an email alert. Might've been Book Bub or something, but I can't recall exactly. Anyway, the guy gets plenty of praise, so it was a no-brainer to get it while the getting was good.

Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner - Angry Robots has the sequel to Tim's Night Terrors coming out this spring. I have an interview with Tim coming up in April, in which he talks about his psycho clown, Mr. Jinx.

The Garden of Martyrs by Michael C. White - A historical murder mystery set around the Catholic church in 19th century Boston. This one was originally published about ten years ago, but it's getting a shiny new ebook release through Open Road Media.

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood - I have read a little bit of Simon's work and enjoyed what I read, but it's been quite a while and this new novel. This one with a road trip gone awry and a murder mystery ensuing sounds like it could be quite riveting.

Grimm Mistresses by Mercedes M. Yardley, Stacey Turner, C.W. Lasart, Allison M. Dickson, & S.R. Cambridge - I won a copy of this collection from Ragnarok Publications. I'm familiar with Mercedes' work, and I had a story published in one of Stacey's anthologies a few years ago, but Lasart, Dickson, and Cambridge are new names to me. But with the Ragnarok label, I have a feeling I'll be entertained by all the ladies with whatever dark tales they have in store.

March 25, 2015

Beyond Where Gravel Roads End: an interview with Laura Bickle, author of "Dark Alchemy"

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams. 

Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are her latest young adult novels. 

I had the chance to ask Laura a few questions about her new rural fantasy novel, Dark Alchemy, which is out now in ebook form and can be found on Enjoy!

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Dark Alchemy? The "Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad" offers a nice hook, me being a Dark Tower fan and all, but what was the impetus for this novel?

Laura: There’s something special about rural fantasy. Strange stuff can happen in the middle of nowhere, beyond where gravel roads end. I grew up in a rural area, and there’s something mysterious about a place where you can see the stars, a setting where there’s total darkness when the sun goes down – no streetlights. I love imagining sites that are really far out, there are no cell phone signals, and help isn’t coming. That raises the stakes substantially.

My husband and I got the chance to go out west on a trip a couple of years ago, to Yellowstone and the surrounding areas. There’s magic there, from caves that hiss with dragons’ breath to ground that sizzles. It’s magic with a broad horizon that I wanted to explore.

So I created a fictional town at the edge of Yellowstone that was founded by an alchemist back in the Gold Rush days. Petra Dee, a geologist, arrives in town, and discovers that he’s left behind all kinds of monsters and failed experiments. As a scientist, magic really bakes her noodle, and she’s got to adapt to an environment where things are not as she expects.

Gef: What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from your previous work?

Laura: Each book is different. It has a different setting, a different, cast, a different theme. The theme that I felt deeply in this book was about loss and impermanence. Some things in life endure, and some don’t – that’s something that my protagonist, Petra Dee, is trying to work through.

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

Laura: I love research. Alchemy is a favorite topic of mine – I’m fascinated by the idea that folks believed that rocks could be transmuted into gold and that one lifetime could be transformed into forever. There’s so much symbolism in alchemy, and this book deals with the first of seven processes in alchemy: calcination. It’s the reduction of things to bone and ash, and is the first step on the journey for Petra in this world.

As far as research tricks go, I give myself permission to fall down rabbit holes. I keep journals of newspaper clippings, maps, bits of Tarot cards, and sketches. As something catches my fancy, I write it down or paste it in a blank book. Often times, it emerges in a story later. It may take months or years for it to grow roots and figure out what it really means, but keeping track of things is really the key for me in the research process. So…for me the gathering comes first, and then the intuitive connection between ideas comes later.

Gef: How integral does setting come into play for you with your writing?

Laura: Setting is a character, as much so as the protagonist. The setting serves to embody an era, a place, a challenge for the protagonist. It can reflect her state of mind, show her what she loves and fears. It’s her world. It was here before she arrived, and it will linger after she steps off the stage.

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

Laura: There’s a lot of iconic imagery in the western genre that I think sticks in our collective unconscious. There’s the image of the stranger coming to town, the man in the black hat facing off at the man in the white hat in a dusty street at noon. Westerns embody a closeness to the wilderness and a sense of rebellion that’s unique to the genre, and it’s a really a force to be reckoned with.

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?

Laura: The worst bit of writing advice I’ve received is: “You can’t do that.”

And honestly, that’s a pretty galvanizing thing for me.

The whole point of writing is to create something new, to bend possibilities, to build a world and populate it with characters that you love. Nothing is impossible in that field, whether it’s mashing up genres, doing what something that just isn’t done, or stepping out of one’s own comfort zone.

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

Laura: I’ve got a whole lot of guilty pleasures: cartoons, comic books, my out-of-control action figure collection. I never really grew up. At the moment, my desk is cluttered with Tarot cards, a Wonder Woman doll from the 1970s, and He-Man and Skeletor action figures that are dueling for control of the universe on my computer monitor.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, how can folks keep up with your shenanigans, and where can folks find themselves a copy of Dark Alchemy?

Laura: DARK ALCHEMY is available on, B&N, and HarperCollins.

The latest info on my work is available at I’ve got a couple of new fantasy projects in the works – stay tuned!

March 24, 2015

Michael Schutz-Ryan Interview and Amazon Gift Card Contest (Hosted by Bitten by Books)

If you visit Bitten by Books this week, you'll find an interview and giveaway with Michael Schutz-Ryan hyping his new novel, Blood Vengeance. Of if you want to skip right to the giveaway, the entry form is below. Bear in mind, when it asks for comments, you'll want to click the link above and leave blog comments there. Got it? Great. And good luck!

March 23, 2015

He Ain't Hairy, He's My Brother: an audiobook review of Tonia Brown's "Devouring Milo"

Devouring Milo
by Tonia Brown
narration by Luke Smith
Running time: 4 hrs and 50 mins.
Published 2014

After reading Tonia Brown's Skin Trade and Lucky Stiff, it was readily apparent she knew how to twist the zombie genre in new and interesting ways. So when I had the chance to listen to this audiobook, I had to wonder what she would have in store for the werewolf mythos. Hoo boy, she had plans.

The Bentley brothers, Spencer and Milo, are killers. Though, Spencer being the older brother leaves him calling the shots, and taking more of a fiendish delight in the trail of blood they leave behind. But it's when Milo is attacked by a werewolf one night that the family dynamic changes ... in more ways than one.

The interplay between these two brothers feels almost Shakespearean in nature, although there's less eloquence in their back-and-forth than there are expletives. Throw in the fact that Milo's shifting into a wolf has a bit of a Jekyll & Hyde element, and the dynamic becomes all the intriguing.

Giving voice to these characters was Luke Smith's narration, who did a real good job conveying the tension, rivalry, and deeply flawed nature of each character. His performance as the wolf was especially chilling.

If you're looking for something a little off the beaten path with your werewolf stories, but want something raw and nasty all the same, this book is for you. And if you can score the Audible version, the performance should make the experience that much more visceral.

March 20, 2015

New Ways of Being Human: an interview with Cody Goodfellow, author of "Strategies Against Nature"

With a cover too hot for Amazon, albeit these days that's a fairly low/arbitrary bar, Cody Goodfellow's latest short story collection, Strategies Against Nature, was published this month as part of King Shot Press' opening salvo of bare-knuckled literary offerings. I had the chance to ask Cody a few questions about the book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Strategies Against Nature: Aging punks recapture the greatest show of their youth through barbaric rituals. The lone survivor of a hellish Interstate pile-up follows an otherworldly sound to its source. A father desperate to cure his daughter’s condition uncovers a multinational corporation’s unspeakable plan for solving world hunger. In these eleven stories, Cody Goodfellow explores the bizarre and the deeply human, using the kaleidoscopic language only he is capable of.

Gef: With Repo Shark published by Broken River Books, and now Strategies Against Nature through its imprint, King Shot Press, how have you been enjoying the working relationship thus far with the likes of J. David Osborne and Michael Kazepis?

Cody: When the media tries to rationalize the implosion of a cult like the Process, Heaven's Gate or People's Temple implodes, there's always a disconnect when they point to the Svengali-like leader at the center. People see a wild-eyed, disheveled hypo-pimp, and they can't imagine how so plainly imbalanced an individual could compel any sane person to dedicate or even sacrifice their lives to their capricious whims.

Speaking as someone who studied these phenomena religiously while his peers were applying for their first retail jobs, I can see the seeds of it right there in this volatile latter-day Manson Family with five part-time Charlies. I can almost predict what those first horror-struck Oregon marshals and NEA tactical commandos will uncover, to their everlasting chagrin, in the depths of the Broken River compound, when the shit finally hits the fan.

But for now, they're magnificent to work with. Their dedication to the Word is unwavering and as obsessive, if not more so, than my own. I had the pleasure of working with Jeremy Robert Johnson on three books, and these guys make JRJ look like his preschooler line-edits his work. They get that the more transgressive and strange your message, the more it behooves you to write and print and present with authority and rigor, and two-dollar words like "behoove." 

I've never worked with anyone who had a brighter, more compelling sense of what they wanted to do or show to do it. They're plotting what I think is the most exciting evolution on the Bizarro publishing model, because they're taking everything that's worked for Eraserhead into the camp of what loves to think of itself as "serious" literature; and instead of offering a gonzo alternative to mainstream alt-lit, they're taking the "alt" part back and making it a portal to the dangerous and unknown, instead of a self-conscious formula.

I often feel bad about stealing them away from what would otherwise be stellar writing careers if they only pursued them full-time, but both of these weirdoes read my first, self-published novel in their formative years, before their fontanelles closed over, and it clearly fucked their standards up beyond all repair.

Gef: Michael describes this book as a bit of a departure for you, in the sense that it strays from the more bizarre stories you've written. So, how much do you pay attention to genre labels or what's literary and what's not?

Cody: He's kidding himself. That's like saying Stockton is a livelier and more scenic vacation destination than Fresno. 

More mature, certainly, and more nuanced than Silent Weapons, and All-Monster Action was an overkill exercise, so it's like comparing apples to orange colostomy bags. Michael did curate the collection out of a mound of stuff I dumped on him, several dozen stories from the last five years, and he went in looking to make a less frivolous, less genre-ghetto book than what I did before. His zeal to make my work respected is sometimes scary. 

More than a departure, Strategies is an expansion of the ideas and questions posed in Silent Weapons, but while Silent Weapons focused very much on how people influenced and altered each other, the new book looks more at how we deal with our enslavement by the natural world, and how we force our individual and collective will upon it. At its heart, the same mission is there––to test new ways of being human––and the same methodology. 

Someone who was, I think, damning me with faint praise said I had a gift for literalizing weird metaphors, so while it seems like harmless, grotesque wankery, there's a very serious subtext puffing a tweed pipe and huffing its own postcolonial dialectics.

I like to believe I don't think about genre when I write, but to make any kind of a living, you're going to write for markets and take commissions where you have to build to suit, and most people want to know what they're getting, especially if it's supposed to be surprising. Whatever I'm writing, I try to mix genres and tangle up their basic assumptions, the expected surprises, so it feels familiar and alien.

Gef: What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from you previous titles?

Cody: I think the biggest difference is I put more control than before in the editor's hands. Jeremy and, eventually, David, succumbed to my pushy attitude, but Michael challenged me to do more than dump my best-received shit since the last book into this one. So I dumped ALL my shit on him and let him sort it out.

Gef: How do you go about picking out the stories for a collection anyway? Was there a particular theme in mind from the outset?

I like to do a Google search on titles while I'm working on them, to see if it's already a book, obviously, but also to see what else other people have made of the same words. This one came up for Strategies Against Nature, from Jaakko Hintikka's On The Epistemology Of Game-Theoretical Semantics, which I totally want to read, now. "Hence this is the thought experiment we must undertake, a thought experiment to the effect that the only thing I can do is to play language-games against nature with different strategies against nature in order to obtain knowledge of reality.” 

Generally, I like the mixtape or rock album approach; creating a flow of images that gradually expands from the intimate to the infinite, from the expected to the unthinkable.
Gef: Strategies Against Nature finds itself as part of an onslaught of fiction of King Shot Press and Ladybox Press, with eleven other books, all being released on the same day. Have you had a chance to scope out the company you're keeping and anything that might have stood out to you?

Cody: I wish I had the time. My secret shame is, I'm a grievously slow reader, and I've worked in bookstores practically for stock in trade, for years. So last week, I read a Harry Crews novel that I bought on impulse while waiting to buy my textbooks freshman year of college in 1989. I am excited about a bunch of the company I'm in with, from a real estate perspective. They say you want to have the crappiest property on the block so your neighbors are lifting you up, instead of them making you look bad. I think the roster speaks for itself, or it will once the March Madness sales tallies are in.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of short fiction?

Cody: In terms of time, energy, output and input, there's no simpler medium for communicating, potentially, any idea, feeling, or argument. The reader comes in alone to find only the author, working alone, and with only words, they, together, can make anything. And in one sitting. A life lived and gloriously ended, a world born and destroyed, in the empty interim before the dentist comes in. Writing short fiction is a joy that runs its course before it becomes work, while writing a novel can be a suffocating experience, "a long, lonely trek through hostile country," as William Browning Spencer described it.

But against the brevity and simplicity and ease of consuming short fiction, for most readers the deal breaker seems to be the emotional investment required. If they're going to get to know and feel for characters, they'd like to have a rewarding and long relationship with them, whereas they balk at the effort required to jump into some unknown quantity, where one might still be trying to sort out who to root for when the story screeches to a halt. I rejoiced when literature rediscovered the joys of plot and genre conventions, following Chabon and now Ishiguro, but they seem only satisfied with genre if they can make it self-conscious and dull. Every sailor and railroad brakeman used to have a pulp magazine or cheap thriller novel in his duffel bag. I think a new pulp revolution is what's necessary to make reading a vital part of everyone's inner life, not just the ever-shrinking minority of us who just suck at videogames.

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?

Cody: More because a too-broad interpretation of them is exactly what any writer who should be changing oil for a hobby instead of writing, I'm sick to death of "Show, don't tell." 
It's always excellent advice for screenplays. The problem with it in literature, is you're telling a story. If you do it smoothly enough and play on the reader's sensibilities with a sure hand, they'll see pictures in their heads. But for longer than I've been writing or reading, most of the popular writing has sought to emulate the loud, bright but flat modalities of cinema. Everything is sight and sound and surface description. For discerning readers, the kind of people who won't give you existential dread when they tell you they love your work, it's the voice, the unique and deceptively intimate way the author TELLS the story, the sly awareness of HOW the mind conjures up those pictures out of your words, that makes reading a more satisfying experience than watching a movie or a play. 

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

Cody: I'm a pulp writer, so my research is almost entirely guilty pleasure of the stevedore's night off variety. But I do love to read shitty Silver Age superhero comics. 

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

Cody: I'm trying to fight my way through to my next novel, UNAMERICA, and a short film I did with John Skipp and Andrew Kasch should be hitting the festival circuit this summer. It's an anachronistic two reeler-style comedy about birthday party clowns who hunt and kill monsters. I've got a graphic novel with Mike Dubisch, Mystery Meat, coming out soon. I intermittently blog at my old publishing concern, Perilous Press, and would more often if anyone read it.

March 19, 2015

Cockfight Like Hell: a review of Nikki Nelson-Hicks' "A Chick, a Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn"

A Chick, a Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn
Jake Istenhegyi, The Accidental Detective Book 1
by Nikki Nelson-Hicks
Pro Se Press (2014)
27 pages
Available at

A little book that packs a wallop. And the devilishly long title to the book should give you fair indication just what kind of story to expect.

Jake is a Hungarian ex-pat now running his dead dad's bookshop in New Orleans, basically living the American dream ... such as it is. Bear, a private-eye and Jake's tenant, since Jake only uses one floor of the building, borrows Jake's car to  in search of a fella who moved down there to be with his lady love, but the fellas' family hasn't heard from his since. Nothing to it, and Jake is always eager to learn a little more from Bear about sleuthing so he thinks nothing of lending his prized wheels, until some time passes and Bear doesn't return. So Jake heads out to find him--and his car--and winds up in a whole heap of Bayou badness.

If you enjoy the weirdness that comes from genre mashups that see private-eyes, accidental or otherwise, tangling with witches and their foul fowl (terrible wordplay, I know), then you'll no doubt get a kick out of this. In quick fashion, Nikki presents Jake as a bit of a hapless and likable guy, eager to learn the trade and amazingly lucky when it comes to not winding up dead at the hands of feathered fiends.

I found it very fun, very gruesome, and a very effective opener to what I hope is a slew of Jake Istenhegyi stories.

March 17, 2015

Write It Loud, Write It Proud: an interview with Brett Garcia Rose, author of "Noise"

Brett Garcia Rose is a writer, software entrepreneur, and former animal rights soldier and stutterer. His work has been published in Sunday Newsday Magazine, The Barcelona Review, Opium, Rose and Thorn, The Battered Suitcase, Fiction Attic, Paraphilia and other literary magazines and anthologies. His short stories have won the Fiction Attic’s Short Memoir Award and been nominated for the Million Writer’s Award, Best of the Net, The Pushcart Prize, The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction, and Opium’s Bookmark competition.

Rose travels extensively, but calls New York City home. (source:

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for NOISE?

Brett: No idea, specifically. The story just came to me sentence by sentence, it was all very direct and simple. I wrote the whole book sitting by the bay in South Beach, surrounded by noise and wearing earplugs. For the first month or so, I didn't even realize I was writing a novel.

Gef: What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from your previous titles?

Brett: I wrote this book very much free-form. No editing or notes whatsoever, and I think that process shows in the pacing and linear escalation of the story. There's a lot of freedom in not having to be true to an outline, a plot, or even a cast of characters. 

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

Brett: With so much research available online, it's not an issue at all. But I do think there is a larger effect at work. Historically, one of the big selling points of fiction was the research itself, the information provided in the context of story. But that information is now readily and instantly available to everyone, and authors are slowly adapting to the fact. Saying a book is 'meticulously researched' used to be a compliment. Now it's irrelevant. You see shorter books, less dependent on lengthy descriptions, with more attention being paid to the writing, rhythm, story and pacing. 

Gef: Where have you found the greatest influences towards your writing?

Brett: Strangers, mostly. Nature. But my writing is also pretty lonely, since I live my life that way. There are some writers and musicians who greatly inform my work, but they are temporary and changing all the time. 

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

Brett: Pacing, definitely. A thriller must build, must move, towards some sort of explosion, either actual or metaphorical. That's what makes them so much fun to read and write. To me, the word 'page-turner' applies only to thrillers. When I first imagined I'd become a novelist, it was literary all the way, but that was not my path. I'm not sure you really get to choose a genre as a writer.

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?

Brett: To write every day. I don't think about writer's block. As a journalist, you write to the inch, a set number of words. When someone asks me to write a 500 word blog, it will be exactly 500 words. You need to have that level of control over the craft. But don't write just to avoid writers block, do that and you will learn to dislike the mechanics of writing. Write when you have something to say. Otherwise, edit, or do something else entirely. Rather than 'write every day' I'd say, 'be involved in writing every day.' Be it reading, editing, planing, or just plain daydreaming. I truly think a writer is nearly always writing.

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

Brett: Thrillers and mysteries. Action movies. I don't like when art imitates life. Modern life is exceedingly boring.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future?

Brett: Finishing up my next novel, Ren.

March 16, 2015

Howlin' at the Moor: a review of Graeme Reynolds' "High Moor"

High Moor
by Graeme Reynolds
narrated by Chris Barnes
Print version by Horrific Tales Publishing (2011)
Audible version  by Dynamic Ram Audio Production (2013)
354 pages
Run time: 7 hrs. 15 mins.

Available on

It wasn't long after I finally watched Dog Soldiers that I listened to the audiobook version of Graeme Reynolds' High Moor, so I had quite the experience with British werewolf stories. And I gotta say, I had a heckuva time with each.

Werewolves, like vamps and zombies, are an oft-used monster in horror and fantasy, and as well they should be because they are just so tragic and fierce and emotive--maybe Beyonce is a werewolf, come to think of it. Anyway, Graeme's approach is less about the werewolves, although the brand of beast he creates are a vibrant and vicious sort that I think any fan of the genre will appreciate, but the humans populating the smalltown of High Moor are the ones that steal the show for me.

If you're an 80s child, even one outside of the U.K., I am sure there are going to be more than a few identifying moments and characteristics featured in the story to enjoy, coupled with small town hijinks and a ferocious pace that doesn't let up, yet somehow allows enough breathing room for characters. If the flashback-y stuff doesn't suit you, you might be a bit disgruntled by the novel, but it plays in really well overall, and I'd really prefer this novel featuring the bulk of its tale in the 80s more so than present day. The nostalgia factor was set high for me on this one.

Sometimes an audiobook feels like you are being told the story, then there are the ones--like this one--that you simply experience the story. I'm sure had I read the print version of High Moor, I would have been equally pleased with Graeme's artful manner in presenting his characters in all their fabulously fallible glory. Having Chris Barnes practically imbue his voice over each character in a way that causes him to disappear and the story shine through just makes this audiobook a treat, especially for a fan of British horror.

March 13, 2015

Chasing Tale [March 13, 2015]: Spring Theory

Chasing Tale is a recurring segment where I highlight the books to recently wind up on my to-be-read pile, as well as a quick rant about whatever's on my mind.

Spring is almost here. We're nearly there, people. I will not complain about what has been one wonky winter, because I still remember what a heat wave feels like and I am not looking forward to that. Still, the snow is welcome to f**k off anytime.

With more agreeable weather on the way, I may actually be able to visit a brick-and-mortar bookstore soon. I usually need three things to do that: some money, some time, and some plowed roads. The winter has been a bit stingy in giving all three at once. I get the feeling I'm not the only snowbound northerner with a little cabin fever right about now.

Anyway, it's not like I'm left wanting for books, as a bunch wound up on my ereader recently. Take a look and tell me what you're interested in reading, and let me know what you've added to your bookshelves.

Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott - If memory serves, this is the novel that was supposed to see its release through Angry Robot Books' crime imprint, but that never happened thanks to the fustercluck that was that imprint's implosion. Well, Polis Books is set to release it in June, and I'm very happy for Patti who writes some great short stories, and I imagine this novel-length work is no different.

Anonymous by Christine Benedict - I received a review copy of this supernatural thriller a little while ago. A young woman she fears she is inheriting her late mother's mental illness when strange happenings start occurring around her. You can check out Christine's guest post by clicking here to learn a little more about the book.

Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle - Just the tag line of "Stephen King's The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad' has my interest. I like to see the weird western having its day in the son the last year or so, and this one looks quite promising. I have an interview with Laura coming up in the near future too, so watch out for that.

Mercy House by Adam Cesare - This is an ARC of Adam's latest novel, which is due for release in June. And given the way he's dished out the horror in previous titles, I can hardly fathom what he has in store for this one, besides being absolutely terrifying.

Dark Screams: Volume Two edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar - The second installment of this anthology series has hit digital shelves, and with a line-up of Robert McCammon, Norman Prentiss, Shawntelle Madison, Graham Masterton, and Richard Christian Matheson, it's bound to compete with the impressive first installment. You can read my review on that one by clicking here.

Creature Stew edited by Michael S. Collins - If you like your anthologies all in one heaping pile, then there's a new one that popped up with 18 stories all firmly in the horror genre.

The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest by Peter Dickinson - This novel won the CWA Golden Dagger Award for best novel back in the 90s, and Open Road Media has re-published it in ebook format this year. What's old is new again.

The Hollowed Land by Glen Krisch - A post-apocalyptic novella? Why sure. Along with sending me a review copy of this enticing book, Glen also took the time to answer a few interview questions for me too. You can read that interview by clicking here.

Cruelty by Edward Lorn - Ed put out a serial novel last year and now it's collected as one ebook, and it sounds like it could be as gruesome as Hope for the Wicked. Time will tell.

Condemned by Michael McBride - I'm listening to the Audible version of this short novel, narrated by Gary Tiedemann who did a great job with McBrude's Burial Ground, which I listened to recently and you can read my review for it soon.

The Dunfield Terror by William Meikle - Ooh, this novel set for release in April sounds eerily promising, with a town beseiged by a green fog in the dead of winter. Been a while since I checked out a Meikle novel, and this one sounds like classic fare for him.

Fear the Reaper edited by Joe Mynhardt - Here's another anthology with an impressive line-up that includes Gary A. Braunbeck, Joe McKinney, Gary Fry and others. All with the Grim Reaper as the central theme. Groovy.

The Forgotten by Bishop O'Connell - The sequel to Bishop's The Stolen comes out next week, a continuation in his American Faerie Tale series. Looks good to me.

Dust of the Dead by John Palisano - I haven't come across too many books that look at the world in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse with humanity coming out on top. This new release from Samhain's horror line, which is set for June, tackles that and sounds like it could be a good 'un.

Canary by Duane Swierczynski - One of my favorite thriller writers is back with a new novel through Mulholland Books. I don't even really know what it's about. It could be a noir take on Sylvester and Tweety for all I know, but all I really need to know is that Swierczynski's name is on the cover, and that's an instant win.

Prodigal by Melanie Tem - After Melanie passed away a few weeks ago, I figured it was about time I read one of her novels. I started out with this Stoker Award winner, and I'm glad I did, as it's pretty gosh-darned good. Gonna be picking up more of her stuff this year.

Positive by David Wellington - How about a zombie novel that throws in the added stakes of the virus laying dormant in some carriers, and may unleash itself at any time, rendering sufferers to a quarantine until they reach a certain age. Sounds really interesting, and I have an interview with David coming up in a couple weeks to talk about it too.

Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley - I could have sworn I had already bought Mercedes' short story collection, but when Shock Totem offered it as a freebie on the Kindle Store last month, it wasn't listed as a purchase. I remedied that, you betcha.

March 12, 2015

Desert Dreams: a guest post by Adam Fenner, author of "O.P. #7"

Desert Dreams
by Adam Fenner

My boots left prints of mud and human waste on the clean rug while I moved from the family room into the bedroom. We had the family, a heavyset father and a scared, crying mother secured in the family room. I kept my rifle up while I moved through the home, the muzzle moving with my eyes while I searched. Every room was bright, well lit and inviting. A flame flickered on the mantle of a fireplace that didn’t belong in that part of the house, propped up against the wall was a picture. It wasn’t special, a tree, alone in front of the setting sun, outlined in bright oranges and reds.
But it was special. That exact same picture had hung above my father’s computer in his home office, an office on the other side of the world. It didn’t belong in this Iraqi family’s home.
I stared at it in the same unaffected manner that I approached everything in this house. I felt wholly detached as I discovered more and more relics from my past. I stopped in the last bedroom. My bedroom, the one I had left in my parent’s house when I went to Basic Training. The house they moved out of ten years ago, tearing down the posters and torn pages from magazines that I had hung. Pages that now hung on this wall, in front of my bed.
Then I woke up, in the same unaffected way that I always do when I have dreams like that. I stared at the ceiling, happy that I hadn’t spent the night being chased by zombies or whoever else felt the need to doggedly pursue me. The more I reflected on what I had just dreamt of, the more it unsettled me. That was an Iraqi house; those were relics from my previous homes, an amalgamation of the two. Had Iraq stolen my past from me or had my past invaded Iraq.
It didn’t really matter.
I grabbed my phone and pulled up my brainstorming document. A single document floating in the cloud where I record all my ideas for stories, it locks them up and puts them away until I need them, and lets me get back to sleep. My note was simple, “Soldiers take house, items from their past begin to appear around the house.”
That is where it started. It took some planning, and a lot of research. Maybe it is because I’m lazy, or because I like to draw from what may or may not be reality but if a creature exists, or rules exists I like to follow them. For as much as I enjoy breaking the rules I freely accept them in certain aspects of my writing. So I drew monsters from Islamic mythology, and set the story in a place I knew, a place that I needed to visit again. I chose my old base in Afghanistan, a small outpost twenty-seven miles from any support.
It was a simple premise that is still expanding, a haunted house full of soldiers. Real soldiers, not that garbage I keep seeing in modern media. I wanted to take unextraordinary young men and women and put them into an extraordinary circumstance. I sent them to war. Then I sent them into a haunted house.
“O.P. #7” is my first full-length entry into “The Horrors of War” series. It is my attempt at taking all the elements of war and putting them into a fictional format. Because war isn’t difficult because of the fear of death and the looming enemy, it is the many unknowns that service members face overseas. They face toxic leadership, language barriers, questions of faith, sexual assault, suicide, cultural barriers, bad chow, and a longing for home. Those are what I focused on, and allowed my supernatural antagonists to exploit. Mix in some gore, and see how far I can push my characters before they start to break.
I also needed to finally stop the little Afghan girl from running around my bed while I was trying to sleep. I considered it to be rude, but since my Pashayi is awful I don’t know how to explain to her that she needed to leave me alone. Now I think I have her, but the only way I could do that was to put her on paper and share her with whoever is interested.
The question that I have for my potential readers is are you interested in traveling to the Alishing valley, walking with my soldiers, and facing the demons of Islam, while they face their own?

Adam Fenner’s “O.P. #7” is available on

Award winning author Adam Fenner has served in both the US Marine Corps and the Nevada National Guard. Adam is the author of "On Two Fronts" the Silver Medal winner of the Independent Book Publisher Associations Bill Fisher Award (Nonfiction) and the "Deployment Wisdom" series. He is a student pursuing his Bachelors degree in Accounting at UNLV, and is currently working on a horror series called the "Horror's of War" and a dark fantasy series.