June 29, 2015

Selfie Filling Prophecy: an interview with Eryk Pruitt, author of "Hashtag"

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey.  His short films FOODIE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND have won several awards at film festivals across the US.  His fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, and Zymbol, to name a few.  In 2015, he's been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and is a finalist for the Derringer AwardHis novel Dirtbags was published in April 2014, and Hashtag was published in May, 2015. A full list of credits can be found at erykpruitt.com.

HASHTAG isA twisted and sinister crime story with characters and a world you'll be clawing for more of from the author of DIRTBAGS. 

The repercussions are felt across the American South when a pizza joint in sleepy Lake Castor, Virginia is robbed and the manager, Odie Shanks, is kidnapped. The kidnapping is the talk of the town, but it's what people don't know that threatens to rip asunder societal norms. Odie chases dreams of Hollywood stardom and an explosive social media presence while his partner in crime, Jake Armstrong, pursues his own vengeful agenda. 

In the meantime, corrupt and lazy Deputy Roy Rains has a hard-luck time of covering up the crime in order to preserve his way of life. 

And college student Melinda Kendall has hit the highway in a stolen ride with nothing but a .22 and limited options, on the run from her drug dealer boyfriend, the Mississippi State Police and the media, trying to escape some bad choices by making even more bad choices. 

All three are on a collision course from hell in this crime story that reads like a blood-spattered road map of the American South.

Gef: Where'd the spark for Hashtag come from?

Eryk: HASHTAG came to me one day when my car broke down and I ended up in a twenty-four hour diner to wait for a ride. At that time, I would have done anything to get out of that particular fix, including robbing gas stations with a career criminal. Basically, I listened to Dylan's HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED over and over again while filling up three spiral notebooks with the story. Originally, there was more going on (including an entire subplot starring Jake Armstrong's former employer and a trio of lackluster security guards at a bus station) but over the course of several rewrites, it got boiled down to what was published.

Gef: Would you say the writerly jitters were bigger in writing your sophomore novel or your debut novel, Dirtbags? Or is it all just another day at the office?

Eryk: Somebody somewhere gave me the indispensable advice to write your second book while you are querying the first. That prevented a lot of jitters. I received a lot of positive feedback for DIRTBAGS, and that builds a lot of pressure. In a sense, it may have been easier to write a second one if everybody hated the first one. But there was a lot of second-guessing and wanting to tinker... I was grateful when it was finally taken away from me.

Gef: How cozy a fit does social media offer for crime fiction, do you figure? Seems like the biggest stage yet for folks, fictional and otherwise, to let their frailties flap in the wind.

Eryk: I dig what social media has done for crime fiction. I've been introduced to some of the craziest minds in crime writing, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, etc. Some days, when writing stories is a total chore, it helps to read some hilarious quip by Mike Monson or Max Booth III. People like yourself have been quite supportive and ten years ago, we might not have made the connection. However, I've learned my particular brand of flapping frailties can get me in trouble, but what would you expect on the social media site of a guy who wrote a book called DIRTBAGS? 

Gef: How would you say you've progressed as a writer thus far? Still feel your a ways from gauging that yet, or have you noticed some changes in your approach to the craft?

Eryk: I think I've gotten crankier, for one. The other day a kid kicked a ball into my yard and he needed a thesaurus to reckon what I was hollering at him. When I first started writing, I would write a lot about things that made me very angry, and there were a lot of them. These days, it's hard to be angry when you've made your dream come true. So I borrow what makes other people angry and put my characters in those situations. 

There's a big difference between cranky and angry...

Gef: Anything particular you've taken from your experience with filmmaking to apply to writing?

Eryk: Scriptwriting has helped my fiction because I don't bother bogging myself down with too many details. I can't stand reading a book where they take pages to describe what a guy looks like or the landscape of a valley... I find that's where my writing starts to sag the most, is describing things that folks don't want described. Elmore Leonard once said "Leave out the parts people tend to skip." Let's get these folks in there to do what they have to do and have them do it hard, rather than run up the word count describing what a water tower looks like. WE KNOW WHAT A WATER TOWER LOOKS LIKE.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character? There's a bit of a shared universe here between Dirtbags and Hashtag, do you see that continuing?

Eryk:  I love setting. I think stories in life and in fiction have a sociology. A crime story in Texas is different than a crime story in Canada, and that is because of where it is set. I am a huge proponent of the New South. I think there is no wilder, scarier place in the world than the American South and I love it, warts and all. I am wrapping up work on another novel that takes place in Lake Castor, but have outlined another which does not. However, they will probably always be about the South.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of noir?

Eryk: I think the saving grace will be its ability to have fun. I mean, everything about noir novels is fun. Writing them, reading them, talking about them... Horror and sci-fi used to be fun, but they get so bogged down now in the politics and award fiascoes, etc. If you don't believe me, walk into any horror or sci-fi convention and openly declare that you like a particular author and watch how divisive things get. That spirit of FUN keeps original storylines and characters popping up in each title. Even books laden with despair like Steve Weddle's Country Hardball or the novels of Benjamin Pike... they're tons of fun to read. Do you honestly think Tommy Pynchon had fun until he "slummed it" and wrote Inherent Vice? 

Gef: Last year you offered up a soundtrack for Dirtbags. Were there any songs in particular serenading you as you wrote Hashtag?

Eryk: This book could not have been written without Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. I strongly encourage everyone to read this book alongside that album and see what happens. Also, while writing about Deputy Roy Rains, I listened to lots of Texas swing, like Milton Brown and Bob Wills. Sweet Melinda listens to lots of Skynyrd and CCR, so I did as well.

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?

Eryk: People always say to be a writer, you must write every day. I need vacations. I need to go out and BS with people. I need to get into a scrape or two. If all I did was sit in front of a computer and write, and I follow that other axiom (WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW) then all I would know about is lower back pain, eyes gone shitty, and a slowly expanding waistline. No, I encourage everyone who wants to write to get out and do things. Try crack. Have a threesome. Steal a car. Roll a hobo. If you are supposed to "write what you know," then you need to get out there and know things.

Gef: Any kind of guilty pleasures when it comes to books or movies or whatnot? Got some southern gothic My Little Pony fan-fic tucked away in your trunk, maybe?

Eryk: I love a good space opera. They are all the same, but I'm so hooked on movies where a rag-tag team of astronauts ends up in the furthest reaches of outer space, then bring something on board which systematically eliminates them one-by-one. Alien, Sunshine, Deep Space Nine, Supernova... I'm a sucker for those things.

I love disaster movies, but not the shitty ones. I'm a bit of a misanthrope, so when I watch nature retake its domain by laying waste to man... it's like porn to me. 

And when I get angry, I always watch Jaws. Cheers me right up.

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

Eryk: I'm on Facebook and Twitter and my website is erykpruitt.com. I have a short film based on my short story "The HooDoo of Sweet Mama Rosa" which will be hitting the festival circuit this Fall. We'll have a local screening before it hits the road. Also, another film called "Keepsake" comes out this year that I wrote and was directed by the uber-talented Meredith Sause. They both are slices of Southern Gothic that I'm way proud of, so I hope to show them off to as many people as possible. I'm working on a short story collection called LUFKIN, so keep your eyes out for that. And I'm finishing off what I hope to be my third novel. 

So I've been busy.

HASHTAG is available at Amazon.com 

June 26, 2015

Dark and Damaged Blog Barrage, plus an excerpt of Felicity Heaton's "Her Sinful Angel"

Dark and Damaged: Eight Tortured Heroes of Paranormal Romance Boxed Set is now available worldwide for a special introductory price of only $0.99!

This ebook boxed set features all-new, never-before-published hot paranormal romances by eight New York Times and USA Today best-selling romance authors. Tortured alpha-male bad boys will ignite your darkest, most secret desires in these stories about vampires, shifters, dragons, fallen angels, werewolves, demons, psychic warriors and ghosts.

Here’s more about this fantastic eight book boxed set, including an excerpt from one of the stories.

Dark and Damaged: Eight Tortured Heroes of Paranormal Romance is available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks stores and other retailers. Find the links to your preferred retailer at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/dark-and-damaged/

Dark and Dangerous

By Jennifer Ashley, Caris Roane, Erin Kellison, Felicity Heaton, Erin Quinn, Laurie London, Bonnie Vanak and Colleen Gleason.

Dark and Damaged: Eight Tortured Heroes of Paranormal Romance

LION EYES by Jennifer Ashley

Bree has just decided to give up trying to be a Shifter groupie when a lion Shifter slams into her truck and tells her to drive. Seamus is on the run from hunters, other Shifters, and who knows who else. All Bree knows is that he’s compelling, needs her help, and most intriguing of all, wears no Collar...

BLOOD FLAME by Caris Roane

Vampire Officer Connor of the Crescent Border Patrol tries to suppress his desire for the powerful witch, Iris Meldeere. Because the woman possesses the ability to kill him with the tips of her fingers, how can he possibly fall in love with her? When a double homicide throws them together, he soon finds his deepest fantasies fulfilled as Iris succumbs to his seductions. But as they battle together to stay alive, and love begins to consume them both, will the witch be able to forgive the dark secrets of his past …

HER SINFUL ANGEL by Felicity Heaton

Cast out of Heaven and now the king of Hell, Lucifer is a powerful fallen angel warrior with a heart as cold as ice and soul as black as the bottomless pit. For millennia, he has ruled his realm with an iron fist as he plots the demise of his ancient enemies. When one of those enemies dumps an unconscious mortal female in the courtyard of his fortress and leaves her there, Lucifer finds himself entranced by the beguiling beauty and tempted beyond all reason. But is the enchanting Nina an innocent pawn in the eternal game or part of a plot against him?

TEMPTED BY FIRE by Erin Kellison

A powerful dragon shifter has waited six hundred years to avenge the loss of his family, but the beautiful mediator sent to prevent violence among the Bloodkin doesn’t want to be his key to discovering the murderer—in fact, she wants nothing to do with dragons at all...

REBEL’S DESIRE by Laurie London

A jaded Iron Guild warrior cares about nothing except battling a ruthless enemy, but when a beautiful woman literally runs into his arms, he realizes she holds the key to his success. As passion ignites, he must decide whether to sacrifice the woman he’s falling for or dare to trust his heart again.


Trapped in the body of a human, the Reaper is about to fall in love with a woman he was never meant to have… When a reaper is trapped in Maggie’s estranged husband’s body, she knows only that the man with her husband’s eyes feels like a stranger… a compelling, seductive stranger who touches her in ways her treacherous husband never could. She wants to trust him, but what about the ghost who haunts their home, implicating him in a gruesome murder…

REDEMPTION by Bonnie Vanak

A cursed alpha wolf promises to free an enslaved Mage if she mates with him so he can sire an heir, not realizing she can destroy the dark secret keeping his pack alive.

RAGING DAWN by Colleen Gleason

After the vampires Max Denton hunts brutally murder his wife, he is nearly destroyed himself and spends the next ten years living a life of violence and revenge. But when sensitive information about his young daughter falls into the hands of the vampires, Max is forced to team up with the woman whose father ultimately caused the death of his wife. Savina Eleaisa has secrets of her own, and she’s determined to do whatever it takes to clear her father’s name: even if it involves seducing the most dangerous of vampires--with or without the help of the arrogant, brooding Max Denton.

Dark and Damaged: Eight Tortured Heroes of Paranormal Romance is available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks stores and other retailers. Find the links to your preferred retailer at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/dark-and-damaged/


The door in the right corner of the far end of the room opened and Nina shot into a sitting position, her heart leaping into her throat as her gaze darted towards it.

The man stood there, dressed as impeccably as before in a fine black suit and polished leather shoes, with his dark hair swept back from his face. All that black made him look as pale as a ghost, his skin white and flawless. Only his amber eyes added a touch of colour that added life to him.


That fiery gaze burned into her as his eyes came to settle on her, narrowing slightly so his long black lashes darkened his irises to burnished gold.

“You are awake,” he said, his voice as smooth and deep as an ocean, lulling her as gently as waves.

With practiced precision, he carried a silver tray into the room and set it down on the black coffee table near the red couch.


Her stomach grumbled at the sight of it. Fruits, something that looked like a sponge cake, and chocolate. Her belly growled louder, her mouth watering as she thought about breaking off a piece of chocolate and popping it into her mouth. Beside the food on the tray stood an elegant silver teapot and a single fine china cup on a saucer, with a tiny pot of milk and a sugar bowl.

Nina stared at the offering, wondering if she would look rude if she ran across the room to stuff her face with the food.

The man arched an eyebrow at her and then at the tray. “I can ask for coffee if you prefer it.”

She quickly shook her head. “Tea is fine. Perfect. I love tea.”

And she was rambling. She didn’t need to catch the amused look on his handsome face to know that.

She edged off the bed and walked as casually as she could towards the couch. He shifted aside when she neared him and she almost paused to look at him, part of her curious about why he always moved away from her whenever she approached him. Was he merely trying to make her feel more comfortable?

Or was there another reason he wanted to keep his distance from her?

The suspicious part of herself locked on to the latter, filling her head with theories about why he might want to avoid being near her. She shoved them away as she sat down on the red velvet couch and snapped off a square of dark chocolate. Her stomach rumbled as she brought it to her lips and she had to fight to keep her eyes open as she placed the piece on her tongue and chewed. Heaven.

Nina swallowed the chocolate, sank back into the couch and sighed.

The man’s gaze on her intensified and she lazily lifted her eyes to meet his. He was closer now, standing at one end of the coffee table and staring down at her, his head cocked to one side.

She was about to ask whether he had never seen a woman blissing out on chocolate when he spoke.

“Tea?” He was crouching before she could respond and she couldn’t help noticing how his black trousers pulled tight across his toned thighs and higher.

Nina dragged her gaze away from the bulge and fixed it on his hands, watching as he nimbly lifted the silver teapot in his left hand and pressed the fingers of his right to the lid as he tilted it, pouring a tall stream of golden liquid into the waiting white cup. Steam swirled from the hot liquid as it rose towards the brim. With an equal measure of care and perfection, he slowly righted the teapot and set it back down on the tray.

Golden eyes slid across to meet hers. “Milk?”

Nina nodded and he picked up the small china pot and began to pour, his gaze constantly on hers. She held her hand out when the tea was golden, not too pale nor too dark for her taste. When he reached for the sugar, she shook her head.

“Sweet enough as you are?” he said with a wide smile that made her heart thump ridiculously against her chest.

She opened her mouth to bat the comment away, but he rose to his feet, coming to tower over her. Something about him standing over her like that, the warmth draining from his eyes as his smile faded, set her on edge. She wrapped one arm around her waist and reached for her cup of tea with the other.

“I make you nervous.” He backed off a step and then another, and she wanted to tell him that it wasn’t him, but she couldn’t bring herself to voice that lie.

He did make her nervous.

He made her nervous when he was close to her, when he was kind to her, when he asked her things about what had happened to her.

When he looked at her as she knew he was looking at her now when her gaze and focus was on picking up the tea he had poured for her.

She could feel the heat of his gaze on her, knew if she lifted hers to meet his that there would be a touch of hunger in his eyes, desire that she had spotted in them before and that left her feeling breathless. The room closed in on her and she struggled to breathe as she reached for the cup. Her fingers shook against the delicate handle and she closed her eyes to shut out the room and everything in it, hoping that it would help her steady her nerves.

It didn’t.

She could still feel his eyes on her.

She pulled down another steadying breath and focused harder, pushing aside the fierce sensation of his eyes on her as she opened her own and settled them on the cup. She gripped the handle and lifted it away from the saucer, bringing it to her as she leaned back. Her hand remained steady this time and she managed a few sips of the hot tea. The comforting taste of it settled her nerves even further.

It might have helped that he stopped looking at her in that instant and moved off towards the fireplace.

Nina studied him as she sipped her tea, taking in the elegant line of his back and how his shoulders tapered but were broad. His black hair was shorn around the sides and back of his head, but left longer on top, groomed back away from his face. She grew bolder the longer he remained looking away from her. Her eyes drifted down the straight slope of his nose, took in the high contours of his cheekbones, and even the tempting soft curves of his lips. Ridiculously handsome.

She could almost believe he had been made to tempt women into sinning.

He exuded wickedness and sensuality, and she felt the full force of it as he turned his head towards her, his golden eyes locking with hers before she could glance away and holding her immobile.

“Is the tea to your liking?”

He may as well have asked whether she wanted to climb him like a tree and kiss the living daylights out of him, because her heart did a stupid fluttering thing in her chest and her belly heated in a way she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Desire flared hot inside her, burning through her veins, and for a moment she wondered whether he had drugged the tea.

It would have been the perfect excuse, if not for the fact she had reacted to him in exactly the same way when she had awoken to him yesterday.

Nina blamed whatever drug the shadowy man had used on her. It obviously hadn’t worn off as much as she had thought.

“What’s your name?” She blurted the question and his left eyebrow arched, a flicker of surprise crossing his features. “If I have to stay here, I at least want to know where I am and who you are.”

“Lucifer,” he said it with such a deadpan expression that she didn’t have the heart to ask whether he was joking and had just pulled a name out of his head that suited the dreary house around her.

“You must have loved your parents for that one.”

His expression darkened. “I do not have parents.”

That explained a lot, but also left her with a heck of a lot more questions. Had her previous assumption been correct and he had been raised in this house?

God help him if he had. The poor bastard. It was little wonder he was so pale and looked so cold and emotionless most of the time.

Except when he was looking at her.

Sure, he had looked at her with cold, cruel eyes from time to time, but there were those times when they held banked heat, desire that had shocked her the first time she had noticed it.

“Nina.” She offered her free hand but he only looked at it, keeping his station near the fireplace opposite her, with the table neatly positioned between them.

Like a barrier.

Nina lowered her hand to her lap and his eyes followed it, his irises darkening once more as his pupils dilated.

There it was again. That heat that stirred the same in her, breaking through the hard emotionless cold that normally filled the space in her chest. Was it the same for him?

Or was she being ridiculous?

The heat inside her grew as he lifted his eyes, slowly tracking the length of her arm upwards and over her shoulder, and the hunger in them grew with each inch higher he roamed. He sucked her awareness to him, pulling it away from the room until she was conscious of only him and how he was looking at her.

Of the way his golden eyes seemed to brighten as they lingered on her face and then fell to her lips.

Her breath came quicker, heart racing as she fought the effects of his eyes on her and tried to shake them off.

It was impossible.

She felt as if she had fallen under some sort of spell and he was the one casting it on her by merely looking at her as if she was beautiful and he couldn’t go another second without crossing the room and touching her.

A flash of him doing just that filled her mind, a stolen moment in which his hand would catch her cheek and flutter downwards to her jaw to tease her head back so his lips could taste hers and steal her breath from her.

Every inch of her trembled in anticipation, aching for that even when it scared her a little.

She couldn’t remember the last time a man had looked at her the way he was staring at her right now.


She could.

And it was enough to throw a bucket of icy water on her libido and kill it.

Nina averted her gaze.

The spell shattered.

She felt it break, felt his eyes leave her as he shifted back a step, one that lacked confidence and felt uncertain to her. He lingered a moment, nothing more than a heartbeat, and then the sound of his shoes clicking on the cold stone floor broke the silence. The door slammed and she flinched, spilling her tea on the floor by her bare feet.

Nina sat there in silence, her eyes closed and her heart racing.

What the hell was she doing?

She placed the cup down on the tray and wrapped her arms around herself as she stared at the closed door.

Whatever had been happening, she wasn’t alone in her reaction to it.

It had rattled Lucifer too.

And Nina had the feeling that was a rare thing.

Grab the boxed set for just $0.99 to read this story and seven others…

Dark and Damaged: Eight Tortured Heroes of Paranormal Romance is available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks stores and other retailers. Find the links to your preferred retailer at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/dark-and-damaged/

June 23, 2015

Burgeoning Monsters: an interview (and giveaway) with Ronald Malfi, author of "Little Girls"

Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of many novels and novellas in the horror, mystery, and thriller categories from various publishers, including Little Girls, this summer’s 2015 release from Kensington.

In 2009, his crime drama, Shamrock Alley, won a Silver IPPY Award. In 2011, his ghost story/mystery novel, Floating Staircase, was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for best novel, a Gold IPPY Award for best horror novel, and the Vincent Preis International Horror Award. His novel Cradle Lake garnered him the Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award (silver) in 2014. December Park, his epic childhood story, won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for suspense in 2015.

Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi's dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres. 

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two children.

Gef: What was the impetus behind Little Girls?

Ronald: I wanted to address the notion that secrets can be dark, ugly things that manifest into monsters, whether they’re figurative or literal. Taking it a step further, I wanted to explore how those secrets—those burgeoning monsters—might affect a relationship, a marriage, or a child-parent relationship that is already troubled. In many ways, Little Girls is a domestic drama. There’s a lot of heavy familial stuff in there—between Laurie and her husband, between Laurie and her father, between Laurie and her relationship with her daughter. I knew that in telling this story, my goal from the beginning was to be as subtle as possible, letting the atmosphere carry a portion of the story. My writer-brain harkened back to old slow-burn novels like Rosemary’s Baby, Peter Straub’s Julia, and even The Exorcist. Those are all really slow-burning, domestic novels. There’s a sense of everyday-ness in each of those books, and I really wanted to capture that in Little Girls.

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

Ronald: My work is often described as “atmospheric” or “quiet” horror, and I think this book is about as far as I can go in that direction. It’s also one of the few things I’ve written where the main protagonist is female. Because of that, it’s a very tumultuous novel, mainly because Laurie is a tumultuous character, but I also think that women tend to be more internally complex than men. Men tend to think in straight lines; Laurie’s character tends to be more contradictory, self-reflective, self-doubting. In writing about her, there were times I applauded her bravery and times when I felt angered by her weakness.

Gef: Folks will bemoan how long zombies and vampires have populated horror fiction, but no one says that about ghosts and haunted houses. Why do you suppose that is?

Ronald: Because “ghosts” can really be anything, and can take on unlimited forms. Zombies are zombies and vampires will always be vampires, but there is some universal truth that exists in ghosts stories, and I think that’s because they’re somehow more believable and even, to a degree, a reflection of ourselves. We’re all haunted by something, aren’t we? It’s the universal truth. Some of the first stories in recorded history were ghost stories. The world’s religions are all ghosts stories, to some degree.

Gef: When it comes to psychological horror, how much of a balancing act is there, both in the brainstorming and in the actual writing, between including aspects of the supernatural and the mundane?

Ronald: There’s very little brainstorming, very little pre-planning, and about zero outlining or note-taking. For me, I think those subtle, strange, inexplicable things that just crop up in the middle of something ordinary are always the most disturbing. The more outlandish things become, the less I’m able to buy into it, and I feel that if there’s too much craziness going on, you’re selling your characters short, and cheapening all the time you’ve spent molding and creating these characters into realistic people. So often, supernatural elements in horror fiction or in the movies can be picked apart until the threads of their realism come apart. If Jason Voorhees never dies, what happens if you chop him up and put all the individual pieces in separate jars? Gremlins can’t eat after midnight...but isn’t it always after midnight? And the biology of someone actually turning into a werewolf...these things beg not to be scrutinized too closely. And while I’ve written my share of these whoppers—my novel Snow immediately comes to mind—I tend to err on the side of more subdued, believable, perhaps even comprehensible horror. That’s the stuff I most enjoy reading and the stuff I’ve always gravitated toward writing.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Ronald: Setting is huge. I often feel like the locations in some of my books are their own characters, like the town of Harting Farms in December Park. That novel would not have the same character, the same feel, if it happened anywhere other than that small bayside city. The setting should compliment the story and engage the character in a choreography, a discourse, a back-and-forth. Despite all this—or maybe because of it—I very often don’t consciously choose my settings or locations, but rather those settings just seem to come natural with whatever story I’m planning to tell.

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

Ronald: It seems horror fiction is making a comeback now, and that’s wonderful. So many authors are writing so many different subgenres of horror that it’s really heartening and fulfilling to be a part of it. Moreover, mainstream fiction has become more accepting of the elements of the genre, which is a big statement. Novels like David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which is a beautifully and wondrous novel, are saviors of this genre, in my opinion, even though they aren’t necessarily part of the genre at all.

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?

Ronald: There’s a ton of shitty advice out there. I think the biggest misconception is that people can be “taught” to be good writers. I don’t believe that’s true. Someone might be able to learn, but that doesn’t mean they can be taught. Conversely, the best writing advice is universal: read a lot, write a lot. Period.

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

Ronald: Not sure if I should feel guilty about it, but I love Hemingway and have reread several of his books with the giddy elation of a young kid happening upon a stash of candy. Just soaking in the language. As for films, I’m not embarrassed to say that early Spielberg movies are among some of my absolute favorites. No matter how many times I’ve seen them, I’ll always stop to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jaws whenever they’re on TV.

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

Ronald: Little Girls will be followed by a novel called The Night Parade, about a father and his daughter on the run from the government while an incurable disease is in the final stages of wiping out much of humanity. It’s a dark and emotional tale, though it’s paced much quicker than a novel like Little Girls. I’m very excited about it. As for where you can hunt me down, I’m on Facebook, Twitter @RonaldMalfi, and maintain a very outdated and visually unappealing website, www.ronmalfi.com.

From Bram Stoker Award nominee Ronald Malfi comes a brilliantly chilling novel of childhood revisited, memories resurrected, and fears reborn…

When Laurie was a little girl, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs. It was one of many rules imposed by her cold, distant father. Now, in a final act of desperation, her father has exorcised his demons. But when Laurie returns to claim the estate with her husband and ten-year-old daughter, it’s as if the past refuses to die. She feels it lurking in the broken moldings, sees it staring from an empty picture frame, and hears it laughing in the moldy greenhouse deep in the woods…

At first, Laurie thinks she’s imagining things. But when she meets her daughter’s new playmate, Abigail, she can’t help but notice her uncanny resemblance to another little girl who used to live next door. Who died next door. With each passing day, Laurie’s uneasiness grows stronger, her thoughts more disturbing. Like her father, is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something truly unspeakable happening to those sweet little girls?

Praise for Ronald Malfi and his novels

“One cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub and Stephen King.”

"Malfi is a skillful storyteller."—
New York Journal of Books

"A complex and chilling tale….terrifying."—Robert McCammon

"Malfi’s lyrical prose creates an atmosphere of eerie claustrophobia…haunting."—
Publishers Weekly

"A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed."—
Suspense Magazine

Order it via Amazon or Barnes & Noble or pick up or ask to order at your local independent bookstore or anywhere e-formats are sold!

Or use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for your chance to win a copy. Good luck!

June 22, 2015

The Teeth Behind Us: an interview with Stephen Graham Jones, contributing author in "Nightmares Unhinged"

Hex Publishers, a new Denver-based publishing house, is set to release its first anthology, Nightmares Unhinged, in September 2015. The book will feature eighteen tales of dark and twisted fiction written by a roster of award-winning and bestselling authors that reads like a who’s who of dark and speculative fiction.

Contributors include Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of the "Felix Gomez" vampire series; Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant; New York Times bestseller Keith Ferrell; Jeanne C. Stein, bestselling author of "The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles" and Bram Stoker Award winner Steve Rasnic Tem. New York Times bestseller Steve Alten will write the book’s foreword.

Another contributing author is none other than Stephen Graham Jones. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his story and nightmares in general. Enjoy!

Stephen Graham Jones is a prolific writer, having authored five collections and 15 novels. He’s been recognized as a Shirley Jackson Award finalist three times, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Black Quill Award finalist, an International Horror Guild finalist, a Colorado Book Award Finalist, a Texas Monthly Book Selection, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction. He’s also been a Texas Writers League Fellow and an NEA fellow in fiction.

Gef: How did you come to be involved with the Nightmares Unhinged anthology? Did you have a story already written that fit with the theme, or were you off and running on something from scratch?

Stephen: What I had was a story that I'd taken a couple of runs at, but I kept losing my nerve, the last few pages. So, when Josh and Dean hit me up, I kind of insta-sparked up this story idea—it involved a pig, and cocaine—but then when I sat down to write it, this story kept rising again. So I tore it down, faked like I had the nerve, and wrote it about six times, I think it was. Trick with horror, it's never doing what you think's going to be scary to the audience, but what you yourself are kind of instinctually uncomfortable with. That's the only way to get anywhere worthwhile.

Gef: With the stuff of nightmares, and just human nature in general I suppose, are we as a species just hard-wired for horror?

Stephen: Definitely. I mean, coming up on the savannah, everything wanted to bite through the back our skulls, right? That happens for enough millions of years, then stories about that, they start to kind of resonate. We get a thrill from them, but we also get instruction. What horror gives us today, I think, is that hot breath at the back of our neck. Without teeth behind us, without constant reminders that we're not as important as we think we are, that we're not at the top of the food- or whatever-chain, then I think we as a species start to lose our edge. Let me go another paragraph here, and I'll be talking about Rocky III.

Gef: Do you find the horror genre lends itself better to short stories or novels ... or all of 
the above?

Stephen: You know, look at somebody like Joe Lansdale, who's done probably more horror short stories than horror novels, and then take into account all the horror anthologies—how that seems to be a form that thrives regardless of era or climate or taste—and . . . I don't know: maybe short stories work better for horror, by just a smidge? But, the reason for that, I'd guess, it's that a short story can get by completely fine with no redemption at the end. The novel, however, it needs some upturn by the time you've crossed three hundred pages. And, with horror, finding that upturn—not saying a 'happy ending,' so much, but even just a sliver of daylight, just one single daisy on the whole tundra—it's a lot trickier. Too, though, man, I love it when a horror novel works.

Gef: What (or who) is your worst nightmare?

StephenHave had it a few times: driving down the road, things are going great, and then I look down to the ignition—I'm always driving a mid-seventies Ford, where the ignition's on the dash, right above your right knee—and there's no key.

Gef: Growing up in Texas, do you feel the region has its own flavor of horror, in the way some might look at New England horror or Southern Gothic?

StephenI think there's more people-on-people horror coming out of Texas, yeah. When you go New England, things get creepy—"Should we open this book / go in that shed / follow that trail?"—but there's less Texas Chain Saw-y stuff happening. Whereas, bringing horror here to the Rocky Mountain area, you get more monsters, I think, or more man-vs-nature kind of stuff. Not sure about California. California's a mystery to me. I think, if anything, the horror that rises in California, it's history.

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

StephenGot a werewolf novel Mongrels out May 2016 from William Morrow that I'm excited about. It's always been my biggest and best dream to bite the world with a story like that. And, you can usually find me @SGJ72, or my site DemonTheory, or speaking at some podium near wherever you are.

June 19, 2015

Chasing Tale [June 19, 2015]: The Tor You Know

Summer is called the silly season, because politicians and news media tend to focus on the most trivial and easily sensationalized topics, until the real work kicks in again in the fall. And the controversies and outrages get more and more inane as the summer wears on. Well, it appears that at least for 2015 the same holds true for the SF/F community.

Of all the shenanigans this year in the writing world, the most caustic has unquestionably been the Hugo Awards kerfuffle. What's that, you ask? Oh ho, don't ask. After countless weeks of bellyaching by some right-wing authors about a secret cabal of social justice warriors hoarding Hugo Awards like a shut-in hordes pizza boxes, the arguments have circled back on themselves and everyone has just been treading water with several more weeks until the awards are even handed out.

The whole thing was running on fumes and I think everyone knew it. And in politics, when the heat dies down and you need to whip up support, you throw some red meat in the ring. Something that puppies could gnaw on. Since many in the fray have had a longstanding resentment towards Tor Books, decrying the publisher as a kind of literary Illuminati, it seemed like they were juicy red meat indeed. So that's what happened this month, as somehow from the myriad of hyperbolic slings and arrows people in the SF/F community have hurled at each other, a single Facebook post by a Tor employee was presented as a smoking gun. Subsequently, a series of demands have been left at Tor's doorstep and if they are not met, everyone boycotts starting today. Well ... not everyone.

Seeing the absurdity of the boycott, many are making today "Buy a Tor Book Day" and taking to social media to rah-rah for their favorite Tor books and authors. For as many people supposedly swearing off the publisher for the sake of ... reasons, more people would rather just keep buying the books they want. It's a bit like when One Million Moms threatened to boycott JC Penney because Ellen DeGeneres had lesbian cooties or something. Turned out that the homophobes exaggerated their numbers, and way more people ended up shopping for pastel cardigans and khaki capris in support of Ellen and feminazis everywhere.

Anyway, it reminds me of something I read about boycotts. Something to the effect of "A boycott, especially when you advertise it to the world, can backfire when people outside your circle find out about it."

So ... yeah. I bought books. Plus some more review copies arrived. What have you added to your to-be-read pile lately?

Trust No One by Paul Cleave - This looks like a very promising psychological thriller coming out from Simon & Schuster Canada in August. It's about a crime writer diagnosed with Alzheimer's and comes to believe his fictional crimes are real and he's the killer, while those around him believe it's mere delusion due to the disease.

London Falling by Paul Cornell - This is the first Tor book I bought. I've had this one on my watch list for a while, ever since I heard Paul on an episode of the Squeecast. I dig urban fantasy, especially when it's the gritty stuff, and this London-based one sounds especially gritty.

Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater - The other Tor book leans towards the horror genre, because I am a horror hound after all. A car accident sends a woman into a realm between the land of the living and of the dead, in search of a boy calling for help who may or may not be a demon. Eep.

Gunmen by Timothy Friend - One Eye Press has a new western out. An under-appreciated genre in my book, as evidenced by some great books to come out recently from the likes of Joe Lansdale, Ed Kurtz, and others. I'm looking forward to this one.

The Darkest Lullaby by Jonathan Janz - There was a freebie going on last week with Audiobooks.com, and I managed to get a copy of this early Janz novel. I've started listening to it this week and the narrator's voice is made for horror fiction.

ClownFellas by Carlton Mellick III - Bizarro fiction seems to be on the rise, and one of the biggest names in the genre has a new book out through Hydra, which published Adam Cesare's Mercy House and the Dark Screams anthology series, so I'm thinking this one should be pretty darned good in its own rite.

After: The Shock by Scott Nicholson - Some apocalyptic fiction in audiobook form hit my eardrums this month. I had the Kindle version, but Scott was cool enough to send me a review copy of the Audible version to, so I could do a kind of Whispersync review of it.

Darkhaven by A.F.E. Smith - This is a new fantasy novel through Harper Voyager that'll hit shelves in July. Smith will stop by the blog in a couple weeks for an interview too, to discuss the book, so watch out for that.

Cape Cod Noir edited by David L. Ulin - There is a whole series of noir anthologies Akashic Books, and I managed to get my hands on a copy of this one with thirteen stories all set around the Cape Cod area. Should be interesting to see how grim the noir is around that area.

June 15, 2015

An Easier Apocalypse: an interview with Ian Welke, author "End Times at Ridgemont High"

Ian Welke writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His short stories have appeared in KZine, spacewesterns.com, Arcane II, Zombie Jesus and Other True Stories, and the American Nightmare anthology among others. The Whisperer in Dissonance is his first novel. 

Before writing full time, Ian worked in the computer games industry. He was lucky enough to work at Blizzard Entertainment and at Runic Games. These days, when he's not at his desk writing, Ian enjoys a variety of games. His favorites tend to be elaborate board games with many pieces and rules to confuse, though he's happiest going mad with his characters in the Call of Cthulhu RPG. 

Ian lived in Seattle for six years, enjoying the rain, but has returned home to Long Beach, California, where he schemes to find shelving to house all of the books he reads.

About Ian Welke's End Times at Ridgemont High: Something is wrong in Ridgemont. Evelyn MacIntire senses it. June 2017 will bring an end to more than the school year.

Parents and teachers have told her and her friends they have their whole lives ahead of them. After high school they can be anything they want to be. They’ve been told that they are special and unique. Turns out their “whole lives” might not last past the end of the school year. Reality is shifting. The powerful and wealthy in Ridgemont have more than money to play with. The Ridgemont Chamber of Commerce has their own end game. And for Evelyn and her friends, what should be a coming of age teen comedy is about to descend into madness and terror.

Find it at Amazon.com

Gef: What was the impetus behind End Times at Ridgemont High?

Ian: End Times at Ridgemont High stemmed from two separate ideas and it’s hard to remember which was first. I wanted to do a collection or even edit an anthology of short stories as horror takes on teen movies. Initially I think it was a reaction to a grim cynical adult realization about the John Hughes movies. (A lot of them seem to have the moral of “what you really need is a wealthy boyfriend.”) Around the same time, I’d been thinking of running a Call of Cthulhu roleplaying campaign set in a high school, sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but without anyone having superpowers. Time constraints and other factors brought the two ideas together. While I was researching the teen movie idea, I got ahold of Cameron Crowe’s excellent but out of print book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, via interlibrary loans. As is often the case with a book versus a movie, I found a lot more depth in the book than in the movie. This is why I chose to parody (loving parody, but still parody) bits of it for this apocalyptic horror story. 

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

Ian: End Times was oddly a lot easier to write than anything I’ve worked on before or since. It was sort of a compulsion. I had to write it. There were other projects at the time… some of which I’m getting to now… that are certainly more obviously marketable ideas, but I had to write this one first to get it on paper and out of my head. And then there’s the characters. One of the things I really like about teen comedies, is that the good ones really care about their characters. I think End Times was made easier because the characters were so much fun to write, especially the character Dean Bolek. 

Gef: When did you first find yourself drawn to apocalyptic fiction? Was it through Lovecraft perhaps?

Ian: Lovecraft and those that followed his work are obviously huge inspirations. So is the Chaosium game based on that mythos. I think when it comes to apocalyptic fiction there are plenty of sources, credit to Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the necessity of a plural for apocalypses. But I also feel like the times we’re living in lend themselves to apocalyptic fiction. With my first book, The Whisperer in Dissonance, I focussed on how it feels when you get much of your news and worldview from what you see online. And it really does feel like you could wake up one morning and see that all your Facebook friends are talking about the end. Climate change, asteroid, austerity economics death spiral, whatever, it just seems like a switch is thrown and one day things are completely different than they were the week before. On the plus side, sometimes, though sadly less often, things go the other way. Elon Musk announces some bit of new tech, and suddenly I have hope, until the next day when I see that willful ignorance is still in vogue and we’re all doomed. 

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Ian: I’ve been very lucky and I’ve gotten to meet many of my favorite writers. I’ve met Tim Powers several times, and one of those was to hear him talk about Philip K Dick, another huge influence. I got to take John Shirley to the airport at the end of the San Pedro HP Lovecraft Filmfest a couple of years ago (how often do you get to be that happy to take someone to the airport?) Cody Goodfellow co-runs that same filmfest and is writing some of the most consistently wonderfully crazy work out there. Growing up, I read a lot of hardboiled fiction, Chandler, Hammett, Jim Thompson. My earliest favorites though were fantasy and scifi: Tolkien, Douglas Adams, John Brunner, Le Guin, Robert E Howard.

Comics and television have been huge sources of inspiration. I was a big fan of the sort of British invasion wave of comic book writers, particularly Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis. And some of my earliest “I want to write” moments were inspired by television shows such as Blake’s 7 and Twin Peaks. Joss Whedon’s shows were huge for me. My first sold story was to Spacewesterns.com and I wrote it pretty much because I was bummed about Firefly going off the air. I bought the Buffy scriptbooks, at least the ones that were published, and read through them and really came to realize what a great writer Jane Espenson is. Espenson is also great to follow on twitter if you’re an aspiring writer, her writer’s sprints are magic, a form of shared endeavor even if everyone participating is working on their own projects, it feels like people are working together. 

Gef: With Ridgemont High featured as a backdrop in L.A., how much emphasis do you usually place on setting as character?

Ian: I set a lot of my stories in and around Los Angeles partially because it’s easy for me to go to the places in the story as research and many of these places have a history to them that spawns stories. For my story in Zombie Jesus and Other True Stories, I photographed the Ishtar Gate at Highland. Originally part of the set for DW Griffith’s Intolerance, the replica there is still three stories tall and impressive. For End Times at Ridgemont High, I based the fictional town on Redondo Beach and did a lot of research there. I drove by Redondo Union High school and took note of its layout. Though I left the camera in the glovebox for that trip. I did not want to be the creepy middle-aged man taking pictures of the high school. Nope. Didn’t want to explain “it’s for a book” to the police.

I also travel a lot, and while for a lot of places I don’t think that merely visiting is enough to write a story, unless it’s a fish out of water lost tourist type story, places I’ve been to often enough have evoked stories. I’ve been over enough miles of interstate in the southwest US for instance, that while I’ve never driven a truck, I felt comfortable writing a story for Eric Miller’s anthology 18 Wheels of Horror. I’m also working on a horror novel set in the four corners region of the southwest that’s largely inspired by repeated trips.

But LA is my favorite for having such a weird history to work with. Researching a book that I’m currently rewriting, has taken me to the Queen Mary’s Observation Deck Bar, the Huntington Library, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and Union Station to name just a few of the locations. 

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

Ian: Quoting from Xach Fromson’s brilliant blog entry (http://hallucinatoryterror.blogspot.com/2015/05/i-was-linked-to-this-article-earlier.html): “…horror is equal parts narrative genre and narrative tactic/device.” I don’t think anyone would call the Lord of the Rings a horror story, but I’d still say that the Dark Riders were horrifying to me as a young reader. (On the other hand I would say that Game of Thrones is a horror story set in a fantasy setting, but that’s like an article in itself and not just an answer to a question.) I guess what I’m saying is that the strength of horror is that it can be many things to different people. It can be a device or tone within another genre’s story, or it can be all sorts of separate subgenres. When people say they don’t like horror they usually mean one subgenre (often serial killers or vampires). But there are so many different subgenres and genre melds that I think gives it a resiliency.  

Gef: Is there any kind of a gear shift when writing a novel as opposed to a short story?

Ian: Oh yes. There are all sorts of gear shifts to deal with. There’s switching from polishing a finished draft to writing something new, or worse, a polish draft to trying to fix a rough draft. And yeah, the shift between novel and short story where suddenly word count is a particularly humorless demon… It’s brutal. I don’t know how people write flash. 4-5k words is hard enough. On the other hand there’s a nice focus to writing short fiction. It’s nice to not have to worry if you’ve explored a character’s backstory enough. There’s no available word count to do that anyway. 

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?

Ian: All writing advice should begin with a preface or disclaimer explaining that all writers are different and that what works for one person can be poison for another. Some writers are polar opposites so you get these sort of holy wars between people who outline versus people who don’t. Some people write better in short bursts, others have to sit and stare at the page first. Some people rewrite as they go, others write the first draft very fast and come back and fix it later. I think the worst advice often comes from people who haven’t made the realization that what works for them might not work for others. I need to outline, but I’ve been told not to. I gave it a try and ended up with a giant mess. So, not for me, but I recognize that it might work for others. 

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

Ian: I think even the things that might qualify as guilty pleasures have their merit. I’ve been watching Psych when I need to relax lately. It’s not a challenging show, it’s certainly not going to make that The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, cut that people seem to have set the merit bar at all the sudden, but it’s fun and often clever and every now and then it’s brilliant and I look up that brilliant episode in IMDB and notice that John Landis directed it or someone similar. The same thing with Supernatural. The show has certainly had its share of troubles, but then there are some brilliant episodes, especially the ones that Ben Edlund wrote. 

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

Ian: The next story I have coming out will be in Eric Miller’s 18 Wheels of Horror from Big Time Books http://www.bigtimebooks.com/. I’ve got drafts of three books (one horror, one dark fantasy, and one fantasy) in need of rewrites. And I’m working on a pen and paper roleplaying game idea that is way more time consuming than I thought it would be, but I can’t get it out of my head any other way than working on it. The best way to follow my writing is either my webpage: ianwelke.com, my twitter account @mewelke, or my Goodreads Blog https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6572208.Ian_Welke/blog