April 30, 2015

Laced with Black Comedy: an interview with Adam Howe, author of "Black Cat Mojo"

Black Cat Mojo by Adam Howe: In these three novellas of blackly comic crime and creature horror, you’ll go slumming with well-endowed dwarf porn stars, killer badgers, redneck mama’s boys, morbidly obese nymphomaniacs, dumbass dog-nappers, trailer trash Jesus freaks, diarrheic Jack Russell Terriers, not-so-wiseguys, mob-movie memorabilia collectors, junkie blackmailers, and giant man-eating Burmese pythons.

Available at Amazon.com

I had the chance to ask Adam a few questions about his debut novel and writing in general. Enjoy!

 Gef: What was the impetus behind Black Cat Mojo?

Adam: Honest answer? To have a book of my own in print! I come from a screenwriting background – a largely failed screenwriting background, I should say – I’m still adapting to writing prose fiction. Many years ago, my short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest run by Hodder & Stoughton, and published in the paperback and Kindle editions of King’s book. As part of the prize, I got to meet The King, who rolled his eyes when I told him I planned to write screenplays; “Write a fucking novel,” he said. Years later, I finally took his advice, and returned to writing prose. After having several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, I felt ready to write longer work. I didn’t quite have the chops to write a full-length novel, so figured I’d start with novellas, learn the ropes. I’ve since discovered that a 20/30k-word novella is roughly the same length as a feature film screenplay, which must be why I feel comfortable there. But I’m more confident now about writing that “fucking novel,” which is in the works.

Gef: What was it about the novellas in this book that stood out for you to be collected together like this?

Adam: The stories have a unifying, albeit very loose, animal theme.  They're offbeat crime/non-supernatural horror (bodily function-horror?) laced with black comedy. The characters are noir-ish in the sense that they’re doomed by their own decisions. I’m calling the style ‘schadenfreude noir’ since I’m encouraging the reader to laugh at the poor bastards. I’m a cruel creator.

Gef: How much of a balancing act is it when blending humor with horror?

Adam: I work from the gut, and try not to overanalyze these things; the fear is the work becomes self-conscious. Dissecting a joke feels a little Teutonic (must be why the Germans are famed for the sense of humour) and I think the same applies to dissecting suspense scenes. While writing more traditional genre material, I’d noticed, or rather, my editor had pointed out, that I was often undercutting tense scenes with humour. Realizing I didn't have a problem with that, with these novellas I went whole hog, allowed humour to be the engine and unwittingly discovered a style that works well for me. I’m pretty desensitized when it comes to horror and humour, and my moral compass is a little wonky. What amuses me, others tend to find disturbing. I just try to have fun, translate that to the page, and hope the reader enjoys the ride; as a reader you can tell when the writer’s having fun.

Gef: Genre labels are great for the bookshops, but it seems that especially with the rise of ebooks that genre mashing has become huge. With a blend of crime and horror in these stories, I take it you welcome that approach, and how do you see it progressing in the future?

Adam: I don’t consider these stories to be a mash-up of horror and crime – like John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books, say; although ‘mash-up’ seems a crude way to describe his great work – rather that fans of horror and crime should enjoy them. Not knowing quite how to describe the novellas, I pitched the book to publishers as “Joe Lansdale meets Elmore Leonard.” If all we’re talking about is historical figures versus supernatural monsters, I’m rarely interested; the writing has to be pretty shit-hot, or the gimmick quickly runs out of steam. Humour is important to me, though; I like my writers to have a dark sense of humour, and that humour is rarely darker than in noir and horror.

Going back to Steve King, it’s often overlooked how funny his writing can be. There’s I story I love called Big Wheels, in his Skeleton Crew collection – no one ever mentions it, it’s not one of King’s traditional horror tales – in which a drunk pays a late night visit to an old high school buddy to have his piece-of-shit car serviced, and rakes up a lot of bad memories for the mechanic. Reading it, you get the sense Steve was just goofing around over a few beers, but that story’s a blast. And there’s a character in Cujo, Joe Camber’s Vietnam vet friend, Gary Pervier; his backstory – in which we learn he got his balls blown off in ‘Nam, and is less than happy about it, being “madder than a bull with an axe handle up its ass” – is hilarious. King’s great at writing those blue-collar goofballs.

Discovering Joe Lansdale’s work has been a revelation. I’m still kicking myself that it took me so long to find him. My editor recommended Joe, said our styles were similar. I started with The Pit and was blown away. Hearing Lansdale’s voice was like making a new friend. I realized there was a place for humour in even my nastiest, most caustic work. Returning to an earlier question, King and Lansdale are masters at balancing horror and humour, and it all boils down to character; make the reader care about the characters and everything else levels out naturally.

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

Adam: Apart from a thorough (and ongoing) investigation of dwarf pornography, there was little to no research involved in these novellas. But I am a fiend for research. Before starting certain projects, I’ll amass a vast library of material, most of which will be left to gather dust, but it allows me to kid myself I’m working, anything to delay the inevitable pain of writing that first draft.

It’s a fine line between research and procrastination. There’s a bonus short story in Black Cat Mojo, unrelated to the novellas, called The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death; an EC horror-style yarn of 4,000-ish words which took me over ten years to ‘research’ before I finally knuckled down to write the fucker. Mad Butcher tells the true story of Bunny Gibbons, the carny barker who bought serial killer Ed Gein’s grave-robbing car, ‘The Ghoulmobile,’ to exhibit at fairs; in my story, and in true EC tradition, Gibbons buys the car and more than he bargains for. As the Crypt Keeper would say: Heh, heh, heh…

When it comes to research, the only trick I’ve learned is to recognize the difference between research and procrastination. Research as much as you need to bluff your way through that first draft, and then fill in the details later. There’ll be other drafts. Believe me, there’ll be plenty of other drafts. (Of course, I’m full of shit. I’m currently developing several period projects, for which I’ve begun hoarding the usual masses of ‘research’ material, and expect to begin writing sometime in the next decade.)

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

Adam: Whoa, this question’s a little highfalutin for the likes of me: a schmuck who’s just written a book – but hopefully THE book – about porn dwarfs and dog-nappers and a cripple fighting a giant snake. Maybe I’m doing my work a disservice here, because I do practice my craft, and work hard at it, but I consider myself a pulp storyteller first and foremost, and leave the heavy lifting to other more capable writers. At its best, genre fiction holds a mirror to society, and filters contemporary anxieties in a way that endures, doesn’t seem to date like a lot of literary fiction. But apart from a few satirical potshots and pop culture references, there’s little of that to be found in Black Cat Mojo.

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?

Adam: For someone who enjoys writing grotesques, I disagree that a protagonist needs to be sympathetic or even likeable to be interesting. Perhaps that’s mostly a screenwriting thing, but I’m guessing it applies to mainstream fiction, too. The characters in Black Cat Mojo are all deeply flawed human beings. Most of them could be charitably described as fucking morons. I don’t think that makes ‘em any less compelling.

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

Adam: My vices – well, I have many – are 80s action flicks, especially the early work of Steven Seagal, in particular his masterpiece, Out for Justice. Even named my dog Gino in tribute to Big Steve’s character. That film is something else. It’s like Seagal decided Goodfellas was missing two things: himself, and aikido.

Also: monster movies, particularly killer animal movies, which definitely influenced the writing of Black Cat Mojo. In fact, there’s a scene in the lead novella, Of Badgers & Porn Dwarfs, in which my diminutive hero finds himself trapped in a badger sett, battling a ravenous badger; I saw it as a scale version of Mamet’s The Edge, in which Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin slay Bart the Bear.

Just to clarify, I like the old monster movies, using puppets and animatronics when real animals couldn’t be used, none of this CGI crap; directors were forced to be creative to hide their shitty monsters from the audience. I don’t have much time for knowingly trashy flicks like Sharknado. (Since I got sober, that is.) The greatest bad movies were made with the best intentions; the filmmakers didn’t know they were making garbage. A movie like Slugs comes straight from the heart, man.

What else? Country music.

I’m not sure how guilty I really feel about liking this stuff.

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

Adam: Coming up next is a Southern Gothic kidnap thriller called Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet – my thanks to Joe Lansdale for that badass title. This one’s more traditional horror/crime. And very dark. Makes Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon seem sunny and upbeat. There’s humour too, I guess. But you’re going to have to be a pretty sick sonofabitch to appreciate it.

I’m also finishing up another new novella called Damn Dirty Apes, which the publisher and I may decide to attach to Die Dog. This one’s more in the spirit of Black Cat Mojo. After Die Dog, the reader could use cheering up, and Damn Dirty Apes is just the thing, a rollicking yarn about a posse of misfits hunting a rogue skunk ape that’s kidnapped the local high school football mascot. I’m pitching it as Roadhouse meets Jaws meets Poe’s Rue Morgue. (Which sounds suspiciously like one of those mash-ups I claimed to hate, doesn’t it?)

For the rest of the year, I plan to continue working on my first novel, One Tough Bastard, an offbeat crime caper in which washed-up action movie star, Shane Moxie, and his chimpanzee sidekick, Duke, butt heads with the Hollywood underworld. Another goddamn animal story; I swear it’s unintentional!

Anyone who wants to drop me a line can Tweet me @Adam_G_Howe or follow me at Goodreads.

April 28, 2015

My Thirst for Horror: a guest post by J.M. Shorney, author of "Night of All Evil"

Night Of All EvilFreya Monroe used to be part of a circle that engaged in the occult, but has turned her back on it. However the circle are determined to bring her back into the fold, to use her powers for their means, including resurrecting their leader from the dead. The group will stop at nothing to achieve their aims and Freya must call on all her resources to resist the power of evil. But will it be enough?

A tense tale of gothic horror – not for the faint-hearted.

Available on Amazon.com

My thirst for Horror, Witchcraft, and the fascination with Highgate Cemetery
by JM Shorney

What is it that draws us down the Dark Path of Evil?

My interest in what is known in satanic circles as the Left Hand Path began at the age of seventeen. Maybe it was even earlier, when as a child I thrilled to my father's winter entertainment of telling the inevitable ghost story.

But these were no tales of fiction, for my father possessed the ability to see dead people. This ability lessened as he grew older, but as a youth, he recounted tales of ghostly coachman and mysterious lights disappearing into gnarled old trees. Of headless horsemen, and a spectral hunt riding through an abandoned priory. His stories of otherworldly apparitions fuelled my appetite for things to come.

As a teenager I was invited to join a coven of witches. I was chosen because I devoured so many books on the Occult and psychic self defence. Although what I knew of these covens, their Satanic Masses consisted of young girls dancing naked around a bonfire, prey to all kinds of temptations.

My father knew of these things, and threw the letter in the fire.

My first novel I released through Amazon, All of them Vampires!, takes a journey through history, beginning with the French Revolution where we meet the vampire the Comte de Santigny, whom I based on Comte De Saint Germain, a man reputed to be immortal. I then take the story to Highgate Cemetery where Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, the wife of the artist and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti lies. The vampire is Lizzie, taken by the Old One at the hour of her suicide.

My fascination with the old Victorian cemetery in North London comes alive once again in Night Of All Evil. The night in question is All Hallows Eve, or All Souls, when the veil is thinnest and the dead allegedly walk among us. There is no night better chosen than to resurrect the satanist Dante LeVey. LeVey, once as powerful as either John Dee or Aleister Crowley, breathed his last, on December 31st, 1999.

He promised to return with the help of his coven, the Hecate Circle, following three virgin sacrifices and an unblemished host body. Then he would release chaos and debauchery to the world. The night of his death murder and crime were rife, that people considered to be due to the end of the century. There is only one person capable of both returning him to the world and his destruction; the most powerful witch and medium Freya Monroe.

Freya, apart from helping the bereaved as a medium, is in retirement. Not even her second husband is aware of her powers. In the wake of her departure from the Circle ten years previously, disillusioned by their debauched ways, her first husband Richard was discovered burned to death at the wheel of his car while the rest of the interior remained unmarked.

The Circle want her back, They need her for the powerful ritual. LeVey, once her lover. needs her but she is afraid for her husband and son. She fears they will be destroyed as Richard was. When the Circle kidnap the Monroes six year old son, and hold him at the mercy of a powerful demon, Freya has no choice but to return to the Circle.

Ex-US Army captain, Nick Monroe, Freya's husband, has had his share of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. No witches are going to scare him that easily. All Freya has is her love for her husband and son, her faith and Holy Water. Which is the most powerful?

Both of the Monroes will do battle against the Dark Forces in their own way, well, with a bit of help from an anthropologist and a jaded police inspector, as they all convene on a ruined chapel in Highgate Wood on the most unholy of nights .

As an avid reader of the late Dennis Wheatley's novels, The Satanist, The Haunting Of Toby Jugg and The Devil Rides Out, this book is my homage to one of the master storytellers of the last century.

I have also written several crime novels from the perspective of the criminal, including a trilogy dealing with a young gangster's release from prison. This character, Aidan McRaney, embarks on a sexual and criminal rampage, before settling down with his woman and his children, but he has a reputation that will always be exploited. Exploring the darker side of the human mind makes a fascinating vehicle for the written word. Ive recently finished a new story in the Aidan McRaney saga called The Dangerous Ones, where vengeance is shadowing McRaney’s life in shocking and twisted ways.

Im also working on another gothic horror. A young parapsychologist, in the belief that demons do not exist, conjures one up by mistake. This particular demon is not called the Destroyer for nothing, and murder and chaos is unleashed in a quiet Cornish village in The Existence Of Demons.

All my books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other outlets. Also on my webpage at JMShorney.Wordpress.com

April 27, 2015

Chasing Tale [April 27, 2015]: Trailers and Failers

You can't judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a film by its trailer?

Last week saw a bunch of trailers come out that got geeks en masse either exploding with squee or sighing in fury. You can see a bunch of the ones for 2015 releases here.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which won't be out this year, had everyone just exploding in their pants with the new trailer. Chrome stormtroopers, robot soccer balls, forever young Chewbacca! It had it all. We still don't really know much at all of what the movie is about, but by gawd it sure looks great.

Shortly thereafter, the new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer leaked and was met with a resounding meh, even after the grainy bootleg was replaced a day later by the real deal. It wasn't a bad trailer and certainly added more interest than the first teaser, but it was impossible to upstage Star Wars.

For a trailer that I thought was genuinely bad, have a look at Terminator: Genisys ... sigh. Look, if you ask me, the Terminator franchise has never been able to come close to the magic encapsulated in the first two films. Not the third film, not the TV series, not the Christian Bale debacle, and this pseudo-reboot looks about as convoluted and hamfisted as any unnecessary sequel I've ever seen.

But as bad as that movie looks, there's one that looks even worse. M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit. Aside from The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the guy hasn't put out anything of merit. The Village had a couple bright spots. Signs, too. But after The Last Airbender killed whatever good will he had with movie-goers, I'm frankly surprised he can still find work. When I heard he was going back to the horror genre, I thought there was a glimmer of hope. NEWP! Not only is it a found footage film, and done in such a way that pisses all over that overused conceit, but the trailer shows a movie so overladen in cliche and insulting plot points, that I wonder just how awful the film will be if these snippets are the best it can muster.

Honestly, as far as 2015 goes, outside of Avengers 2 and Max Max: Fury Road, I'm not seeing a whole lot to get excited for. At least with the action/adventure genres, I'm not seeing much of anything. There's Southpaw and Aloha, but they're more drama and comedy respectively. Ant-Man? Maybe? Looks like it'll be fun, but it also looks like a placeholder film in the MCU. I'm happy to be wrong on that, though.

That's why books are so awesome. There are tons of 'em out there, and finding good to great ones is no trouble at all. In fact, a couple in the latest pile to arrive on my doorstep look like they could be kickass. Have a look and let me know what catches your eye.

Dreaming Deep by Anonymous-9 - What do you do when you've always proven your skills at crime fiction? Throw in some Lovecraftian horror to make it interesting. Hey, sounds like a good plan to me.

Goblins and Skinner by David Bernstein - Dave has a couple more horror novels set for release this summer. Goblin comes out through Samhain Publishing, while Skinner comes out through DarkFuse. Definitely a guy to watch out for if you aren't already.

The Gumshoe and Other Brit Grit Yarns by Paul D. Brazill - I had already loaded The Gumshoe onto my Kindle when it came out as a separate novella, but now it's collected with other tales and I snagged it for free.

The Clockwork Dagger / The Clockwork Crown / The Deepest Poison by Beth Cato - Not only does Beth have a follow up novel to her successful debut novel, but there's also a companion novella out as well this year. I have an interview with Beth coming up soon to talk about it all, so keep your eyes peeled.

The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson - How about a little YA steampunk for a change of pace? This one features a teen girl with a passion for tinkering that finally gets a chance to assist with the construction of a top secret automaton. Nice work if you can get it.

The Breadwinner by Stevie Kopas - Zombie apocalypse, anyone? Stevie has a trilogy set in Florida as the undead start feasting on brains, what brains can be found in that humid den of debauchery. This novel is the first.

Red Junction by Kile Norby - Then there was some weird western that showed up in the ARCs. It's set during the Colorado gold rush, and features a heckuva lotta zombies.

No Date for Gomez by Graham Parke - I reviewed No Hope for Gomez a couple years ago, and now the sequel is out. Graham was generous enough to gift a copy to me via Kindle, so thanks Graham.

The Penny Thief by Christophe Paul - This one is a previously published novel that features a banker up against a scheming rival as they go after the same stolen money. Could be good.

Night of All Evil by J.M. Shorney - A former member of an occult get-along gang becomes the target of said group as they try to resurrect their leader. Interesting premise.

Aickman's Heirs edited by Simon Strantzas - I'm unfamiliar with Robert Aickman's work, but his weird fiction has garnered a devoted following, aking to H.P. Lovecraft. Now there's an anthology that serves as tribute to his strange tales, published by Undertow Publications. I'm intrigued.

April 24, 2015

Plague Confederacy: an interview with Alison Sinclair, author of "Contagion: Eyre"

Eyre has survived the collapse of the galactic empire better than most of the lost colonies with a central government, a world trade network, an effective medical system - and a pathological fear of death. When the medical re-contact ship, Waiora, arrives with its dual mission of finding the plague and stabilizing surviving colonies, its crew is quickly immersed in a religious schism that threatens their mission and their lives. As a mysterious contagion threatens lives and incites revolution against the Caducean Order, the Waiorans must choose between the success of their mission and their most deeply held values. This is the second volume of The Plague Confederacy series from Alison Sinclair.

Available on Amazon.com

I had the chance to ask Alison a few questions about the second book in her Plague Conderacy series. Enjoy!

Gef: What was the impetus behind the Plague Confederacy.

Alison: I started out with a plan to write 3 novels over the next 4-5 years. One novel about a physician from a very different tradition, one book about a medical starship, and one book about a medical dystopia. The first wound up being a trunk novel, since I have not been able to solve its problems. The second was Breakpoint: Nereis. By the time I had written the second draft of that, it had hatched a plot-arc and was demanding a sequel. I had a central character (Teo) whose faith was strong and had previously caused her problems, and religion was very much in the news and public consciousness. I fancied challenging the Waiorans’ blithe assumption that the medical part of their mission was the uncontroversial one. Hence, Contagion: Eyre.

Gef: Is there much difficulty in approaching a sequel as opposed to the first book in the series? Is there anything you did differently in your process this time around?

Alison: Not much difficulty, no, and definitely not in comparison to Lightborn and Shadowborn, second and third book of a trilogy. The structure of the Plague Confederacy series is episodic-with-arc, so I just had the one plot thread (granted, it's a significant plot thread) continuing, and that only motivates one member of my cast, Phi. That keeps down the complexity of the carryover from book to book. In addition, since I was starting anew with a new setting, I could refine the central conflict to challenge a character (Teo) whom I had already established.

Gef: There's been a lot of star gazing in the mainstream media lately, at least it seems that way with chatter about a potential Mars mission, potential life on one of Saturn's moons, so how optimistic are you about humanity reaching out beyond the Moon in the years ahead?

Alison: Isn’t it great? When I was a child, I built a little plastic moon module, and now I have an iPad app that pops up a notification every time another exoplanet is added to the database. (Thus invalidating all the merry handwaving and planet picking that I and others have done for decades: a hazard of the profession.)

I'm optimistic about our colonizing the solar system. It’s within achievable science and technology. It will be expensive on a scale that would make even military budgets shrivel, and it won't happen tomorrow, or even in the next few decades. That's also assuming we can preserve both ourselves and the institutions needed to support the project until it becomes self-sustaining. That may prove the bigger challenge. But it is doable.

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

Alison: It varies. There are two aspects: internal self-consistency and external accuracy. Internal consistency is more a matter of trying to get the pieces to work together, and for that I do a certain amount of conceptual-type research, get the concepts as straight as I can, and then use my imagination from there. External accuracy is where I have to get down to details, and check against what's known. My most research-intensive book to date was Cavalcade, published in 1998 and set a few years in the future, with a human cast. Aside from the contribution of my recent medical degree, my research included structural colours, the history of microscopy, international aerospace law, disaster response, US Special Forces, and military-civilian relations.

For Contagion: Eyre, the major topic was public religion. I'm a product of the post-Enlightenment privatization of religion and the high level Church-State divide (although Christianity is so embedded in British and North American culture it becomes invisible). So I had to study up on how religion functioned in cultures and states that did not have those forces operating, on my way to coming up with a fictional religion and culture that works with my story.

I’m not convinced I have any tricks. I have a tendency to disappear down a rabbit hole and try to learn everything, when I know in principle much more efficient way to proceed would be to find an expert. But I still have to get quite far into the story before I know what I need to know.

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

Alison: Being able to slip constraints and cast off assumptions, particularly the social ones. Science fiction was liberating for a seventies teenage girl interested in science and discovery. While the media endlessly debated the place of women in the workplace and public life in general, inside my head women were running whole planets.

And ... Watching imaginative people play with science. The sheer intellectual pleasure of assembling a world from clues. The way social movements ripple through science fiction, and the imaginative forms writers’ responses can take. Being downright casual about hundreds of thousands of years, millions of light-years, and personally acquainted with life at scales from microbes to Gods (even if all of it’s fictional).

I suppose what I’m trying to say is: it’s fun.

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

Alison: Stop. You should be doing something else. That really dwarfs all the others.

I’m not sure there are any I wish would just go away. Development as a writer is individual, lives and circumstances change, and different pieces of work have different requirements. Just about every piece of advice is probably just what someone, somewhere, at some point, needs.

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

Alison: Strangely, all my guilty pleasures seem to have become respectable over time. Science fiction and fantasy were my guilty pleasure—or more precisely my defiant pleasure—for years and years when I was supposed to be reading Great Literature. I read young adult books long after I qualified as one, and my writing of my PhD thesis were interrupted by bouts of comic-book debauchery.

My fondness for military SF, especially naval SF, might count as a guilty pleasure. Particularly for someone who is firmly on the side of war being a failure of statesmanship rather than an extension of it. But in my fiction, I enjoy life-and-death stakes, tech, military tactics, and power-politics. In movies, my unfashionable pleasure involves good dialogue, and lots of it, excellent acting, emotional intensity, and logical plotting. Which probably explains why I've seen more live theatre than movies over the last few years. I’m an avid listener to radio.

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

Alison: The sequel to Contagion: Eyre, of course. Working title is Contact: Umber, though that may change without notice. I had a prolonged false start, but I now have an engaging grandfather-granddaughter pair about to cross paths with the Waiorans, a culture that is going to challenge even Val's expertise, and a medical mystery that is once again going to prove Phi is too smart for her own good.

Alison Sinclair is the author of the science fiction novels Legacies, Blueheart, and Cavalcade (nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award). She released the first novel in the Plague Confederacy series last year, Breakpoint: Nereis. She currently lives in Ottawa where she is working on the next novel in the Plague Confederacy.

Alison Sinclair Website : Twitter

April 23, 2015

A Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thriller: a guest post by Eric Turowski, author of "Inhuman Interest"

Inhuman InterestThirteen words in a want-ad turn Tess Cooper’s world upside down after she signs on as a paranormal research assistant to the mysterious Davin Egypt. He reveals a world of grave robbing, clockworks artifacts in blue amber, antique revolvers that fire strange ammo, and powerful forces beyond human comprehension. 

As ancient occult energies threaten to destroy her city, Tess must use her journalistic instincts to stay one step ahead of the public works director, Drew Dawson, whose agenda seems bent on destruction rather than maintenance. And possibly murder, but will anyone believe her? 

Yeah, right. When garbage trucks fly. 

If Tess teams up with the hunky police lieutenant, Kirk Gunther, and the pale, oddball Mr. Egypt, they might be able to save the city in time. That is, if Egypt even wants to. And if Tess overcomes her phobias long enough to do battle in Granddad’s 1983 Subaru Brat. 

Things are about to get icky.

Available on Amazon.com

Inhuman Interest: a Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thriller
by Eric Turowski

There I was, writing horror novels, which according to publishers and agents and bookstores, have no readers. Which seemed silly. I was always looking for horror novels. Television is filled with horror programming. Horror movies fill up your Netflix feed. What was the deal?

The deal was, probably, to stop smashing my head with a two-by-four and write something new.

So I kinda wrote Inhuman Interest on a dare from my buddy and fellow author Julia Park Tracey. Write something you usually don’t, write it quick, make it short, and find a genre popular on Amazon (instead of horror, dummy). Checking what was popular, I ran into Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thrillers, and I figured, I could do that!


While it wasn’t exactly in my comfort zone, I had some experience with the genre. I’ve read Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thrillers, and some are pretty good. The witch with the Clint Eastwood movie titles is a favorite, and the were-coyote mechanic series is interesting.

But when is enough enough? Personally, I didn’t see much point in my rehashing the same stuff. As much as publishers like to flood the market, the market can become fickle in a hurry. Besides, how much could I change a colony of vampires or pack of werewolves to be both different enough from existing series and still recognizable? Plus, I’m something of a purist. To me vampires are cold, undead blood drinking nocturnes; werewolves uncontrollable animals during the full moon. It went against the grain to write domesticated lycanthropes and sexy walking corpses.

Still, I knew that something about these Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thrillers made them highly desirable. After putting all the ones I’ve read into a mental strainer, leaving as pulp the stuff I didn’t like, I squeezed out the following: The books have relatable characters. The books have supernatural creatures. Sometimes the twain meet, sometimes not so much.

In my mind, if we’re talking about people with superpowers and relationship issues, we’re talking comics. And the dare was to write a novel, not a comic book. So strike the super-powered pro/antagonist.

Because they were not supernatural beings, I needed to pump up the characters. I went to the most memorable series characters I could think of. They weren’t paranormal. They were Stephanie Plum and crew from the Janet Evanovich books. They were funny, quirky, stuck in your mind like freakin’ memes, and very human. So I had a blueprint to work from.

Because I’m me, I needed to dump some sort of supernatural something into the book. And I really had to think hard about it. Vampires, werewolves, assorted Little Folk were not so much paranormal as folkloric. Witches, demons, angels and the like were actually religious. That left me with Bigfoots, lake monsters, space aliens, ghosts and Slenderman falling into the paranormal category. All of these have been overdone recently, though in the supposed documentary medium. Maybe there’s such a thing as a really great Yeti or lake monster Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thriller, but I wasn’t the one to write it.

So I shied away from known monsters-- from known anything--and named my supernatural stuff the occult. And this occult wasn’t paranormal, or folkloric, or religious. It’s more Lovecraftian, esoteric, proto-historic and New Age-y in nature, but with rules (the first rule being that the occult is not folkloric, religious, or paranormal in nature). This tends to make the occult vague and incomprehensible, sure, but that’s all part of the fun in dragging our relatable heroine, Tess Cooper, into this very strange and dark world.

In a nutshell, Inhuman Interest is funny, quirky memorable characters dealing with the Lovecraftian, esoteric, proto-historic New Age-y occult. Maybe it breaks too much new ground for a Dark Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance Thriller. But, hey, maybe readers want something other than romantic walking cadavers and hunky were-beasts.

Maybe it’s time for something new.

Eric's Bio: Newspaper founder, bookstore owner, artist, musician, and man-about-town Eric Turowski writes lots of mixed-genre books when he’s not too busy playing laser tag with Tiger the Cat and his fiancée Mimi deep in the Central Valley of California.

You can learn more about Eric at www.ericturowski.com.

April 22, 2015

Blackmail is the New Black: an interview with Kurt Reichenbaugh, author of "Last Dance in Phoenix"

About Kurt Reichenbaugh's Last Dance in Phoenix: Kent should have it made. He has a decent job, a beautiful wife and a nice home in a trendy part of the city. Everything seems to be in its right place, at least until an old childhood friend re-emerges. Kent’s life quickly begins disintegrating, beginning with blackmail and progressing into murder. Someone is trying to ruin Kent’s cozy little setup, and Kent isn’t about to go down without a fight.


Also available on Amazon.com

I had the chance to ask Kurt a few questions about his book and his writing. Enjoy!

Gef: What was the impetus behind Last Dance in Phoenix?

Kurt: I wrote Last Dance in Phoenix during a very frustrating time working at a nameless Insurance company. I saw the VP of the Information Systems going around the floor making sure the artwork was hanging perfectly level. Another VP was upset when he discovered someone else had an assigned spot closer to the elevator than he did. A third VP decided that on the first day our new president arrived, we should all stand and sing this song that this VP wrote for him. I could have stayed there and continued to eat myself alive with frustration, or I could make a change. I took a separation offer and wrote the novel, then went out and found another job.

Gef: What initially drew you to noir and crime fiction, particularly the vintage stuff?

Kurt: I’ve always loved mysteries. I discovered vintage crime by checking out Mickey Spillane paperbacks from the neighborhood library. After that it was Ian Fleming, then John D. MacDonald, and I was a full-blown addict for the stuff. Also vintage Science Fiction from decades past. The sort of stories that spark a wonderlust in the reader.

Gef: A lot of times the setting can become as much of a character as the actual characters. How does Phoenix play into your story?

Kurt: Phoenix is where I’ve spent the last 24 years of my life, so it was pretty much a no brainer to set a novel there. I was also fortunate enough to be part of a nice collection of stories in PHOENIX NOIR from Akashic Books. So writing about it wasn't a hard decision to make. Phoenix is a city that is often passed over between Chicago and Los Angeles. It has its unique quirks and character that may someday find an audience.

Gef: Was there anything about this novel that you approached differently from your previous work?

Kurt: Yes, my previous book was set in the 70’s so I didn't have to concern myself with modern technology and conveniences in that story. Setting something in the “present” means you have to deal all kinds of things that can throw wrenches in the suspense. I’m not very technical, so it’s easy to make mistakes or get something wrong. Someday, if it’s not here already, there will be an app available to get yourself out of the type of situations that my characters find themselves in. I want the story to come before the technology, and don't want to necessarily date the events by the type of phones or networks people may use.

Gef: How intensive did the research get for you, or was this something more along the lines of immersion?

Kurt: More along the lines of immersion into the mindset and frustrations of the characters. What would I do in this situation sort of thing. That and some minor research on technical points.

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

Kurt: The strength is good stories about people readers can like or dislike, but either way at least they’ll feel something for them. Crime fiction also has a way of giving an insight to that person you see every day at the coffee shop, or in that cubicle near the printer. That’s what I aim for. I want to tell a good story, and I want to make the reader relate on some level. Much easier said than done.

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?

Kurt: The worst writing advice I ever got was to write for the Young Adult market because “that’s where the money is at.” This was from someone who didn't have a clue about what it took to write a book of any type. I think telling anyone what to write and/or what market to write for is both arrogant and inconsiderate. Same goes in telling someone what to paint, or photograph, or whatever. If someone wants to write Gothic Romance or Science Fiction or about kittens that solve mysteries, then more power to them. It’s one of my pet peeves when someone (never a writer themselves) decides to tell me what story I should write or what market I should write for. When someone starts saying “You know, you should write about…” I’m scrambling for the nearest exit.

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

Kurt: Oh man, I love 70’s trashy novels by writers like Harold Robbins. That and Men’s Adventure novels with their exploitative sex and violence. Of course that leads right into sleazy paperbacks with licentious babes and laconic drifters on the covers. Horror Magazines and comics fall in there also. I miss seeing those covers in the bookstore racks, but with fewer and fewer bookstores around, I guess that’s how it’s got to be.

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

Kurt: I’m always sifting through the debris littering my imagination, looking for that “what if” starting point that makes past the first 30 pages or so. I’m terrible at self discipline and am easily distracted. I can be followed through my blog TheRingerFiles.blogspot.com

April 21, 2015

Murder Most Cloned: an interview with Liana Brooks, author of "The Day Before"

About The Day Before: A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There's a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it's not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.

I had the chance to ask The Day Before's author, Liana Brooks, a few questions about her new novel. Enjoy!

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for The Day Before?

Liana: Ooo! Let's see if I can answer this without spoiling the ending. The original idea came after seeing THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON which is about a young girl realizing she's the missing child. Obviously, the original idea was a different sort of book, but there's echoes there. I like books where the character has to define their own identity because I feel that's probably the most human we ever are. Some of us wake up and redefine ourselves every day. Some of us only need to look in the mirror once and decide at that very moment who they are. For me, that moment is very exciting. Even if the definition changes tomorrow, deciding who you are is an epic moment.

Gef: What tends to spring into your mind first when crafting a story? Is it a "what if," a character, a specific scene?

Liana: Usually a scene or piece of dialog. For THE DAY BEFORE it was the image of Sam looking at Jane Doe for the first time in the field. I was fascinated by the energy of that image, the idea that the investigator and the victim are isolated from each other, together in this endeavor to find the killer but still alone. I don't know how much of that original idea made it to the final draft, but that's where it started.

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

Liana: I finished it!

Okay, that’s only a little bit of a joke. THE DAY BEFORE isn't my first finished novel, it's the first novel I finished, edited, polished, and queried. Several other novels lie in the manuscript graveyard under my bed. They just weren't good enough.

The process of getting a story to finished book is harder than you might imagine reading your favorite book. I danced into publishing as a starry eyed ingénue who thought she could write one draft and have a perfect novel because I only wrote one draft of my papers for school! Feel free to laugh at my naiveté.

I don't feel I wasted my time on the other novels. They taught me how to structure a plot, how to set up my villains, and how to edit. THE DAY BEFORE is a culmination of all at learning. Hopefully my readers will feel it's a debut novel worthy of them.

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

Liana: I have a love affair with Google maps. When I started writing THE DAY BEFORE I think I was still living in Alabama, north of Eufaula (for any of those who ever travel in the South). Most of the imagery was picked up from driving to see friends and getting lost on the back country roads where 435 ends and you turn left for a mile on 531 and then turn right again on 435. But when I got to a certain scene that needed a lake I wound up stalking Google maps. It's a wonderful tool for writers who can't always travel to where they're setting a book.

I've also made use of the extensive network of well-educated authors out there who have diverse backgrounds. One person works in a hospital, there's a mortician who answers questions online, there are all these people willing to answer questions for authors. All you have to do is ask and you'll be able to find the police officer who will happily tell you about the four-pound hooker chasing the cops for taking her drugs. Alas, there was no way to fit that scene in this book. Maybe next time?

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

Liana: Science fiction is the future. Every major invention you enjoy, from your computer to advanced medicines, showed up in fiction first. All these wonderful things start with some crazy person thinking, "You know what would be really cool? What if we had a handheld computer? Or a talking wristwatch. That would be so neat!"

They scribble it down in a book or a graphic novel or a screen play and then some engineer watching Star Trek or reading Dick Tracy goes, "I could do that. Yeah, dude, I could totally make that!" And they do.

Look how influential Uhura in Star Trek became. The first interracial kiss on television. The first POC woman to be seen as an equal to white men in many American homes. You can't overstate how important that piece of science fiction history is.

Look at the origins of science fiction, go back to FRANKENSTEIN or the original masked superhero THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, both were written by women. Both explored something beautiful and devastating in society, and both spawned legions of copy cats. Mary Shelley invented the idea of genetic manipulation. She asked, "Can we put this piece of one body with this piece of someone else's body and create something new?"

Baroness Orczy is the foremother of every masked hero: Zorro, Batman, DC, Marvel... she led the way for all of them and I think that foundation is the biggest strength in science fiction.

At its core, science fiction is about equality and building a better future. Good science fiction will always show humanity what it can do better. Even the dystopian fiction, the ones where the narrative is about the worst possible scenario, teach us something about how to respect other people and how to look to the future.

You can't help but love science fiction, because it loves you. This is a genre for everyone. Come as you are, we have a place for you.

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?

Liana: It's a tossup between "Writing is really hard and it's impossible to get into publishing, so you should quit wasting your time and do something else." and "Write what you know."

One, everything worth doing is hard when you start. Walking was hard the first time you stood on your wobbly baby legs. Writing is hard when you first learn to hold a pencil and write your name. Just because something is hard doesn't mean it isn't worth it.

I knew a runner once who had a marathon shirt that read, "Trample the weak, hurdle the dead." That's good advice for a writer. Millions of people say they are going to write a book every day. Millions of people have quit writing their books and will tell you it is too hard. They will try to drag you down and make you quit too. Don't. Keep writing. Always keep writing.

Two, I'm not a police officer. I've never tried to solve any crime. My background isn't in law or forensics or even writing. Who cares? That's why you have an imagination. Write crazy. Write free. Write anything that comes to your head. If you need to have science for it, go get educated. Read books, audit a class, ask professionals for advice... all the answers you need to write whatever you want are out there. Go get 'em.

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

Liana: I really like explosions. Witty one liners, explosions, and scenes that make me laugh get me every time. I wind up reading a lot of urban fantasy and watching a lot of crime shows from the point of view of the criminals. Thieves and conmen always look like they're having such a fun time.

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

Liana: THE DAY BEFORE is book one in the Jane Doe series. Book 2 is tentatively titled JANE'S SHADOW and releases in November, so that's my number one priority at the moment. If you like super villains you'll be happy to know I'm working on Book 4 of the Heroes and Villains series.

In case you need to catch up and have a free evening to read a novella, book 1 is EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE. And then there's always a bunch of pot boilers; the Scottish UF and some military SF with undercover operatives, and I have one book where the main character was voted most likely to start an interstellar incident... and then she does.