October 30, 2015

The Damn Dirty Apes Controversy: a guest post by Adam Howe, author or "Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet"



Writing for the indie press, without an advertising budget for promotion, the best an up-and-coming writer can hope is that an established writer will endorse your work, that you might poach a few of their readers.

I’ve been very lucky. Early in my writing career, Stephen King chose my short story Jumper (written under the pseudonym Garrett Addams) as the winner of his international On Writing contest; should you wish to read that story, you can find it at the end of the Kindle edition of King’s On Writing – but cut me some slack, I was very young when I wrote it. Since then, I’ve received encouraging praise from other great writers whose work I admire – enough to keep me plugging away at this writing lark.

For Damn Dirty Apes, an offbeat throwback to creature-features and 1980s action/adventure movies, and one of the novellas in my new collection, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, I thought it might be fun to request an endorsement from a more unusual source. Little did I imagine the shitstorm that would erupt when I sent the manuscript to Mr. Lambert Pogue, General Secretary of the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape.

Here in full is Mr. Pogue’s letter to my publisher, dated 3rd September 2015:


This morning I received among my usual correspondence a manuscript entitled Damn Dirty Apes by Adam Howe, with a request to provide an endorsement. Now let me say in advance, in my official capacity as General Secretary of the S.P.N.A.S.A, I am not in the habit of reading, much less of reviewing fictional works. Having read enough ill-conceived, ill-researched and illness-inducing titles exploiting the Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Skunk Ape phenomena to last a lifetime, I will politely decline, citing more pressing work commitments. Yet Howe’s manuscript is so deeply offensive that I feel I must respond, frankly and fully.

From a research point of view, it is clear that Howe has exerted himself no further than a cursory Google search, spicing his narrative with only the most lurid tidbits. In so doing, he serves the reader a rancid broth of gross distortions, misrepresentations and half-truths, played for shock value and scatological humor. No doubt the small print prefacing the published book will contain the usual disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is entirely coincidental.” And readers would be well advised to take these words to heart. Unfortunately for me, this advice was more difficult to apply.

As I waded through Howe’s nauseating pulp fiction, I became uncomfortably aware that the protagonist named as ‘Jameson T. Salisbury’ was based on a decidedly non-fictional character. And furthermore, someone I regarded as a personal friend. There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Salisbury’ is a thinly disguised, grotesque caricature of the late Gerard Hauser, author of the seminal work Among the Skunk Apes of the North American South: One Man’s Journey of Self-Discovery (Pine Marten Press, 1972, sadly long out of print).

I daresay only a handful of people are alive today who remember the hermetic Hauser well enough to take offense at the injustice Howe does to the man. To the best of my knowledge, he left no next-of-kin to defend his reputation, much less to pursue litigation. So it seems that apart from my own protest, Howe’s slanderous portrayal will remain unchallenged.

For those unaware, it is due to Hauser’s lifelong study of the North American Skunk Ape, that the majority of our knowledge about this reclusive hominid derives. Taken as a whole, the decades of self-sacrifice in Hauser’s pioneering field research comprises a huge debt to which all of us in the field owe him.

Yes, there were controversies that dogged the man. It hardly bears repeating the allegations made by young female campers who reported Hauser for voyeurism and indecency; embarrassing episodes Hauser claimed to his dying breath were simple misunderstandings. And yes, the unanswered questions surrounding Hauser’s final expedition, in which an amateur cryptozoologist tragically lost his life when he stepped into a hominid-snare, are difficult for even his staunchest supporters to defend. But these are, in the main, anomalies that can be excused as the enthusiasm of a field researcher with no formal training. (In the latter case, it should also be noted that the authorities cleared Hauser of any criminal wrongdoing, a fact many of the man’s critics so conveniently forget!) Hauser’s shortcomings and eccentricities pale in comparison to the sheer volume of data he left to us – physical evidence, photographs, and compiled eyewitness testimonies; a life’s work spanning decades.

Until Hauser’s premature death in 1982, he and I exchanged semi-regular correspondence. I met him personally only once, when he was scheduled to lecture at the annual hominology convention in Atlanta, Georgia. I found him to be considerate, courteous, lucid, and well balanced. In Howe’s repellent pulp fiction, Hauser is lampooned as an unhinged and callous misfit, slovenly and selfish, who thinks nothing of endangering others in the obsessive pursuit of his cause. He bears little resemblance to the kind and gentle man I felt privileged to call my friend.

I cannot, in all good conscience, endorse this work. Moreover, I call on all hominologists, whether in the Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Skunk Ape fields, to put aside our differences and unite in a boycott of this disgraceful book. Quite apart from Howe’s literary shortcomings, which will quickly become apparent to the unsuspecting reader, the author’s attack on Hauser’s integrity is the action of a cynical coward seeking profit by besmirching the reputation of a man no longer alive to defend himself. Furthermore, I wish it to be known I am prepared to render my fullest assistance to any parties pursuing legal action against Howe and his publisher for the injustice done to Gerard Hauser.

Lambert Pogue, General Secretary S.P.N.A.S.A.
Clawson, Ohio

This was just the beginning. Mr. Pogue proceeded to make good on his threat to boycott the book. Rallying a small army of hominologists, they besieged the Comet Press Facebook page with angry calls for my head. Such was the furor, I genuinely believed Damn Dirty Apes would never see print, and I am enormously grateful to Cheryl Mullenax at Comet Press for weathering the storm and sticking by me.

In my defense, the character of Jameson T. Salisbury was written as an affectionate (if mischievous) tribute to the late Gerard Hauser. What little I know about Hauser – and indeed, very little is known – I gleaned from an article in the Fortean Times relating to Hauser’s doomed final expedition in the Arkansan backwoods. Hauser struck me as exactly the kind of colorful character I enjoy writing about, a real-life Quint from Jaws. Damn Dirty Apes was written as a light-hearted romp, no more or less. I had no intention of maligning Hauser’s reputation and I deeply regret any offence I may have caused.

Fortunately, I was able to placate Mr. Pogue with an apology, and a modest donation to the S.P.N.A.S.A. He lifted his embargo, and even kindly provided the somewhat terse disclaimer that precedes the story. Mr. Pogue would like me to stress that this should be in no way read as an endorsement, and advises any serious student of hominology that their time would be better served reading S.P.N.A.S.A. approved non-fiction.

Lesson learned, and in future I’ll stick to asking other writers for blurb.


Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet (pub. Comet Press) is a collection of crime/horror/humour novellas including Damn Dirty Apes, the title story Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet, and Gator Bait. It can be pre-ordered NOW and will be available in paperback and eBook formats 03/11/15.

Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet: Story Synopses

Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.

Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet. Reading like a retro slasher flick, this pulpy Southern Gothic kidnap-thriller takes no prisoners as it roars towards a shattering conclusion.

Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.


Adam Howe is a British writer of fiction and screenplays. Writing as Garrett Addams, his story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of his On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s book. His fiction has appeared in places like Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Horror Library 5 and One Buck Horror. His first book, Black Cat Mojo (pub. Comet Press) is available now. Follow him at Goodreads and Tweet him @Adam_G_Howe.  

October 29, 2015

Halloween Blitz: an interview and giveaway with Xavier Axelson, author of "Lily"

Lily, Synopsis

What does one say when they realize their child is gone? Better yet, what does one say when that child returns, but is different? 

 “I really liked the psychic element to the story, sometimes in books that just isn't done very well or done in a very clichĂ© way, but I found it came across very well in this read.” Book Devotee Reviews
“Axelson writes from the emotions and in doing so he draws the reader in. It is close to impossible not to react to his stories.”  Reviews by Amos Lassen

This is the question Pryor must ask himself after his daughter, Lily, is dragged into the woods by a wolf and her body is never found. It isn't until he sees a wolf in the woods with eyes that resemble Lily's that he feels hope. And then something is whispered from deep within the woods, a promise for him to see Lily again. 

One day... 

But which day and for how long? 

And then Pryor meets Ned, a silversmith who brings out desires that Pryor hasn't felt in years and helps him hatch a plan to keep Lily with him.

Now the question isn't about how much time Pryor will have with Lily, it's about how far he'll go to keep her with him.

Gef: What was the impetus behind Lily?
Xavier: Lily was inspired by the true story of a little girl being dragged off her swing set by a coyote in California, luckily she was recovered safe and sound. I wondered what would happen if she hadn’t been saved, and came back…different.
Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of werewolves to keep them so popular in genre fiction?
Xavier: Werewolves are mysterious, and usually you become a werewolf through an attack/bite, and this lends a tragic element to the mythology; they can’t help themselves, they are turned into this horrific beast often not by choice and tragedy in horror makes compelling reading.
Gef: Was there anything about Lily that you approached differently from your other titles?
Xavier: Lily started as a “Father’s Day” romance that took a turn into horror, so much so the initial publisher released it as its own story. I approached Lily with the intention of showing the relationship between a father, daughter and grief so I was constantly keeping those themes in mind while following the story.
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?
Xavier: “Just sit and write.” I wish that would go away. True but trite.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Xavier: Pleasure is never guilty. I think when I’m not indulging I feel guilty.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Xavier: Shenanigans is exactly right! Check out www.xavieraxelson.com for updates, news, reviews and interviews! I also write a column for the Los Angeles Examiner http://www.examiner.com/fringe-artists-in-los-angeles/francis-xavier My short story “Witch Awake” will be part of the online “Season of The Witch” event starting November 1st http://storyteller-skgregory.weebly.com/

Earthly Concerns, Synopsis
Between love and loss, there is obligation…
It was a peaceful night when Barrett and his daughter were driving home… then something happened. Something sinister.
Between shadow and light, there is uncertainty…
Now the only person Barrett can turn to for help is Anson, a man gifted with psychic abilities beyond reason. But Anson is also his ex-boyfriend, a man whose heart he’d already broken.
If you can see, you have to help.
As Anson delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Barrett’s accident, he begins to realize that he’s not only in a race against time, but in a battle against his own broken heart and the terrifying understanding that whatever has taken Barrett’s child is a force of evil beyond anything either man has ever encountered.
And between decision and consequences, there are… Earthly Concerns
Biography, Xavier Axelson
Xavier Axelson is a writer and columnist living in Los Angeles. Xavier's work has been featured in various erotic and horror anthologies. Longer written works include The Incident, Velvet, and Lily. Xavier covers Fringe Culture for the Los Angeles Examiner. Connect with Xavier on his website at www.xavieraxelson.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/xaviersaxel and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XaviersAxel.
Praise for Xavier Axelson’s work
“This book was an excellent short read.  It has a little bit of everything.  Lost love, tragedy, paranormal beings, and the hint at a second chance.”  Close Encounters with the Night Kind
Purchase Links
Earthly Concerns
Enter to win either a copy of Lily (2 e-book format to giveaway) or a copy of Earthly Concerns (2 e-book format to giveaway). Anyone may enter. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, Hook of a Book Media, hookofabook@hotmail.com.
Enter using the form below:

October 28, 2015

Chasing Tale [Books Received for October 28, 2015]: Oh, Hell House

Chasing Tale is a regular feature on the blog where I highlight the latest books to wind up on my to-be-read pile, followed by a rant on whatever happens to be on my mind.

Nine Toes in the Grave by Eric Beetner - There's a new book coming out by Beetner through All Due Respect Books. Good title, good cover, good author. It's all goood.

Rumrunners by Eric Beetner - This is another one by Beetner, this time from 280 steps, about a family of rum runners who get up to their necks in trouble. I wanna picture a 70s-era Burt Reynolds as the main character, but we'll see.

Toxicity by Max Booth III - This one sounds like some acid-tinged crime fiction here, with an ex-con trying to make the cash to buy custody of his estranged daughter from his ex-wife and her new junkie boyfriend. Sounds like all kinds of crazy.

Never Let Me Sleep / Never Let Me Leave by Jennifer Brozek - The first book in this new YA horror series came out just a week or so ago, and the second book set to be released in a couple weeks. Jennifer will be stopping by the blog next month too, to help shed a little light on this alien-hunting mayhem she's cooked up.

Without Light or Guide by T. Frohock - Speaking of sequels, the second book in Teresa's Los Nefilim series will be released in November as well. Some historical fantasy, anyone? I actually interviewed Teresa about this series, and you can read that by clicking here.

Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski - This is one I could have sworn I bought, but apparently not. At least not since it was rereleased. If you are a fan of revenge horror, I hear this one is a must-read.

The Damaged by Simon Law - Here's a little British horror to get added to my review pile. This one has a bit of the ol' revenge tale to it, with some psychological horror thrown in. We'll see how that goes.

The Humanity of Monsters edited by Michael Matheson - This is a new anthology slated for release in January from Chizine Publications. Michael's gonna stop by the blog in the near future too, to discuss the anthology, so watch out for that.

What Happens in Reno by Mike Monson - Here's another new novella from All Due Respect Books, this time seeing a marriage go from bad to worse when a boozing layabout of a husband runs into some money. I got an interview with Mike coming in November too, so be ready for that.

Wilted Lilies by Kelli Owen - I have an interview with Kelli lined up as well to discuss writing and her latest horror novella, which was originally published as a serial in Lamplight Magazine, but is now available in this complete iteration.

The Ripper Gene by Michael Ransom - Speaking of interviews, I had one just last week with Michael about his new thriller, which you can check out by clicking here. This psycho thriller came out late in the summer and explores the ideas and the science behind genetics of serial killers.

The Silent End by Samuel Sattin - I won a copy of Samuel's YA horror novel a little while back. Small town horror on Halloween night that sees three high school friends take in a wounded monster. Sounds like it could be really good. It's picking up some positive reviews thus far, anyway.

The Dover Demon by Hunter Shea - I interviewed Hunter about this alien invasion novel last month, which you can check out by clicking here. The review copy finally arrived, so it'll be neat to see how this one turns out.

Dead Girls Don't by Mags Storey - Here's some more YA horror, this time from Chi Teen. I don't think I've read anything from Chizine's teen imprint, but this one about a girl who talk to the dead trying to figure out who the town's serial killer sounds like a great premise.

Oh, Hell House

Hell House has been going on for years apparently, but I only learned about it this week. I'm not talking about the Richard Matheson novel, either. I'm referring to faith-based scare tactics used around this time of year to ensure kids go to Heaven when they die, all under the guise of a haunted house attraction.

I guess there was a documentary made about this kind of stuff a few years ago, but I just caught a ten-minute vid on YouTube highlighting the sights of one of these attractions. It was ... eye-opening.

Under what pretenses these kids are brought into the so-called hell house, I don't know, but once inside they are led from room to room so they may witness surprisingly graphic reenactments of domestic abuse, suicide, abortion, drug addiction, and even a school shooting in some cases, all culminating in the players of each scene descending into the pits of Hell for their sins. Sins such as getting an abortion or committing suicide after being drugged and raped. Ya know ... the usual.

It's that school shooting one that may be the most galling aspect, because I'm pretty sure that if I had seen that kind of horror as a child, portrayed by actors(even over-the-top amateurs like those who work in these attractions), I would be absolutely traumatized. And I'm not even sure why the church feels the need to include such a scene. It feels like it's there purely for shock value, tapping into the very real crisis in America of gun violence at schools.

Heck, kids and even adults have needed help exiting the darkened hallways to vomit or break down in sobbing fits over what they've had to watch. And once the kids have witnessed enough blood-soaked propaganda, they finally end the tour in a quiet room where they are told they have two choices in life: either give yourself to Jesus (even offering an adjacent room in which to pray with members of the church; or not, and take there chances outside with the rest of the sinners.

Well, holy crap.

I've never found those extreme haunted houses with monsters of every ilk jumping out of the shadows to be my idea of having a good time. Gimme some candy, a costume, and a jack-o-lantern, and I'm good. I'm laid back like that, but I won't begrudge somebody who seeks a good time by having the bejesus scared out of them. But hey, if someone else wants to shell out a few bucks to have a few jump scares, more power to 'em. However, subjecting children to a staged school shooting and other agenda-driven scenes for the sake of either converting them to or cementing their existing faith in Christianity (or whatever religion or agenda) is my definition of cruel and unusual. So far as I know, we don't have these events in Canada, and I hope they don't catch on.

But, then again, in the eyes of the organizers, I'm the weird one for celebrating Halloween and not being a devout Christian. It takes all kinds, I guess.

October 27, 2015

Memphis Bleak: an interview with Kathryn Rogers, author of "Memphis Hoodoo Murders"

About Memphis Hoodoo Murders by Kathryn RogersAddie Jackson has witnessed people trying to kill her family her entire life, and now her grandparents’ attackers are hunting her. The Memphis police are never able to catch these crooks since the cops have been bewitched to stay away. Her grandparents, Pop and Grandma, habitually lie to Addie, but she is attentive enough to overhear the secrets they keep from her. In her predictive dreams, Addie regularly sees future events, which disturb her, but to her dismay, she has never been able to stop them from coming true. She often dreams of a dark character, who she is later shocked to discover is the Man, a devil from hoodoo legend. 

Addie is disturbed to discover she is being stalked by a witch doctor named Hoodoo Helen. To make matters worse, the more secrets Addie uncovers, the more danger she finds. Addie presses Grandma for answers about the power behind the ring and pocket watch she often toys with, but Grandma remains tight-lipped. Knowing their deaths are imminent, Grandma makes a deal with the hoodoo devil to take care of Addie, and Addie is later horrified to discover that her beloved family has been murdered. John, a family friend, steps in to help Addie, and she soon realizes he knows more about her family’s tainted past than she ever has. Addie begins receiving cryptic letters from her deceased grandmother, which reveal a shocking family history revolving around slavery, time travel, and magic. 

If Addie can survive jail, her cousin’s abduction, threats from a menacing gang, corrupt law enforcement, and hoodooed attacks, maybe she can finally dream of a future where she will be safe and free.

Gef: What was the inspiration behind Memphis Hoodoo Murders?

Kathryn: The idea for Memphis Hoodoo Murders hit me like a lightning bolt at 5AM in the summer of 2008. I was in a fishing boat with my husband on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Brandon, Mississippi; he’s the fisherman – not me, so I always have a book or two with me since I like to read while the boat rocks. It’s a running joke that when we go fishing, I doze in the boat until at least 8AM since I am certainly not the morning person in our relationship. However, this day was different, because I sat straight up in the boat and announced to him that I was going to write a book. He raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s great. You should do that sometime,” as he tried to figure out why his wife was alert at this ungodly hour. However, he didn’t understand that I intended to start immediately. I grabbed a flashlight, a legal pad, and a pen and began writing in the dark, because the story was calling to me, and it was too loud to ignore. I had always wanted to write a book, but I had not received an idea I felt was worth reading until then. This was seven years ago, and I have been writing about that story and those characters ever since.

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

Kathryn: I am currently centering all of my stories around the Southern region of the United States, and the culture within the setting of the Bible Belt is pivotal to these tales. In Memphis Hoodoo Murders I would say that the city of Memphis is one of the main characters. This occult mystery carries a distinctively Southern flavor specific to the Bluff City, and the essence of this permeates every page of the book. In all of my stories, I try to help readers feel like they are part of the setting and culture so that they get a tour of the place where it all unfolds without ever having to leave their seats.

Gef: Do you find it much of a balancing act when introducing supernatural or paranormal elements into a mystery novel?

Kathryn: Yes, because while I always want the characters and storyline to be relatable enough for readers to connect with them, I also want the tale to be an escape from reality in such a way that within the context of the story the alternative reality feels believable. I like the idea of having different worlds and dropping ordinary people into them to observe how they handle themselves in strange situations. To make sure I am maintaining this delicate balance, I ask a lot of my helpful reader associates to review my stories to obtain their opinions before I ever submit them to my editor.

Gef: How much of a rabbit hole was the research phase of this novel? Any juicy bits of info you learned yet had to cut from the novel or couldn't find a proper place to fit?

Kathryn: Since I am from the South as a Memphis native, the setting and culture required no research to write. However, hoodoo was a completely foreign topic for me, so I spent countless hours reading about old Southern legends and history related to this strange subject. The history behind hoodoo was often more interesting than anything I came up with, so I took pieces and parts from old hoodoo legends to weave the story together. Since hoodoo was developed to help slaves protect themselves from their abusive masters, I wanted to tie hoodoo in to the modern day civil rights struggle, but there wasn't enough time to develop that train of thought. I hope to cover a lot more of the interesting pieces of hoodoo history in a future story.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Kathryn: I have so many writers who have influenced me. J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer inspire me since they were both mothers who wrote their stories down and “made it” in the literary world. Stories like theirs gave me hope and encouragement to press on when I got discouraged at times and considered giving up. Growing up, C.S. Lewis's Narnia series inspired me to be more imaginative, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a classic story which left a lifelong impression on me. Also, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is one of the best novels I have had the privilege of reading. Additionally, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Charlaine Harris are all authors whose work I admire.

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

Kathryn: The saving grace of the mystery genre is probably its ability to continue to reinvent itself year after year.

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?

Kathryn: Honestly, almost all of the writing advice I get comes from my editor who has had over thirty of his own books published. Since he is the main perspective I listen to outside of my own, I don't think I have had the misfortune of absorbing a lot of bad advice like many other novice writers have had to. I think the fact that I tend to be extremely private and secretive about my work until there is something significant enough to announce probably helps a lot, too. People won't give me advice if they don't know I am working on something they could have an opinion about. However, whenever I do get feedback, I consider whether there is anything of value to me in the message, and if there is, I make changes. Whenever I receive bad advice from inexperienced individuals, the overall message is generally this: “Don't do it, because we wouldn't do it. We don't put ourselves out there, because it's scary. So, because we are short-sighted, we think you should be like us.” In response, I generally smile and say “Thanks for the advice” before I walk off, roll my eyes, and do whatever I am brave enough to do. People who try to put perimeters around me are reflecting their limitations – not mine. Just because they can't do it doesn't mean I can't.

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

Kathryn: I am a sucker for vampire books and films. Don't ask me why – I don't know. My husband teases me about it a lot, but he's a good sport and watches the films with me even if he doesn't always read the books. Also, I shop on Amazon way too much. The appeal of sitting in my pajamas and drinking coffee while I get most of my Christmas shopping done without ever leaving the recliner is so appealing – especially when it's cold outside. Because of this, there are a lot of packages at my door in November and December. Additionally, any time I'm in the Memphis, Tennessee area, I never leave before eating a big plate of barbequed nachos. I won't eat them anywhere else in the world, but they are so good around the Bluff City. I swear most days I could give up meat altogether if it weren't for their barbeque. If you ever make it up that way, you will have to try some.

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

Kathryn: I have another story I am working on now, but it's top secret at the moment. However, I am on Twitter @KARogers27, and my book page is on Facebook under Memphis Hoodoo Murders by Kathryn Rogers. I am quite active on both Twitter and Facebook and am very responsive to messages with both sites. As soon as I have other novel news I can make public, I promise to share it with everyone.

October 25, 2015

Five Alive: a review of "Dark Screams: Volume Five" edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume Five
edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Hydra (2015)
103 pages
Available at Amazon.com

This fifth and, until things change, final volume in the Dark Screams series goes right into the trippy territory with Mick Garris "Everything You've Always Wanted." Trippy and gory, as we see a director who was a one hit wonder in the horror film biz lured to a horror convention for a last taste of adoration from his cultish fans.  The story felt kind of humdrum at first, but it ups the creepy factor page by page, especially when our protagonist crosses paths with an alluring young woman who loves his work and the two head back to his hotel room. Hoo boy, this one is not for the weak-stomached, but regardless of the gore, the story of this guy's fleeting last grasp of fame packs a punch.

Bentley Little had an offering too, with "The Playhouse," which kind of baffled me a bit with the subtext, but the visuals it conjured up as the story progressed had me captivated the whole time. I dig a story that has a neat little way to play with time and this one had it, as a realtor stuck with a new property to sell finds herself enamored by the little playhouse in the backyard, where each time she steps into it time goes faster outside than in, and her desire to return to it becomes stronger with each visit.

Kealan Patrick Burke and J. Kenner had shorter tales in this anthology, with "The Land of Sunshine" and "The One and Only," respectively.  Each one painted a good picture with the backdrops and the mood in each, but there was something in each story that I just kept butting my head against. I think it came down to not really connecting with the forlorn husband in Burke's or the carousing college kid in Kenner's.

The story that will probably wind up being my favorite of the bunch when I look back on this book later on is "Mechanical Gratitude" by Del James. It might have been the bit of nostalgia over those old muscle cars of yesteryear, or the vague callback to haunted car tales like Christine, or maybe the straight-forward storytelling that had a bang-up finish. Whatever it was exactly, it starts with a man killing his neighbor's dirtbag son one night after the fella breaks into their garage to take his Camaro for a joyride. From there it felt like it was pulling you one way, but you find out you were headed someplace else entirely. Very rewarding reading experience, I thought.

All in all, another solid outing from the Dark Screams gang. It's a mixed bag, so there is a little of everything for all kinds of horror readers, whether they want the visceral style of an early Clive Barker, or the disorienting style of a Rod Serling tale. You're no doubt gonna find something to like in this anthology series.

October 22, 2015

Forked Roads: a guest post by Mav Skye, author of "Wanted: Single Rose"

Forked Roads
by Mav Skye

What if, after year in and year out of loneliness, you finally find your soul mate. She/he is everything you could have dreamed. Drop dead gorgeous, witty, kind... only one tiny drawback, your soul mate turns out to be a kills for thrills psychopath. Furthermore, he/she believes you are meant to be one, too. And the worst thing about it all? You are starting to believe it. Your soul mate calls it leaving the straight and narrow for the fork in the road. They call it winning the game. And if life is a game, it's a game you fully intend to win. At any cost...
Okay, so that sounds more like a trailer to a movie than the opening of a serious essay. Back in the 50's, horror tales always ended with the couple who committed a "bad deed" dying badly, exemplifying some moral like, you didn't listen to your mom and pop—therefore DIE. Even today, horror stories tend to push a moral, supporting whatever the current fear/religion/political/social propriety requires. Moral-of-the-story pieces are great for children, but what about adults? Hopefully, we aren’t the cute little politically correct cookie cutter shapes that the government and social media direct us to be. You have an opinion on things, sometimes it’s the opposite of the socially accepted view. (Hallelujah!) You’ve been around a few decades, you’ve learned a few things, you’ve had a few kids, a few life partners... Congratulations, you’ve entered the twilight zone, which is to say, you’ve graduated from do this/don't do that and have entered the gray fuzzy areas of life. This gray fuzzy area is where I have found my writer’s playground. So, let’s play, shall we?
Society says obsession leads down one road, and one road only. It is long. It is dark. And ultimately, it leads to DEATH! And. Eternal fire damnation. Let’s shrug off society for a sec, and, just for fun, let’s seriously fuck up the pretty little cut-and-dry scenarios that Disney has crammed into our brains from a very young age. What if, I say, what if, brothers and sisters of the choir, obsession leads to life not death. What if, like a tenacious detective looking for clues, obsession leads us to our passion? It leads us to the truth about ourselves, the truth that lies buried inside these flighty little souls of ours?
Most of us are good people. We take care of our families, show up to work on time, donate to the poor, recycle paper, stop at the stop sign, pick up our doggy's poo when they go on the sidewalk.... that’s great, Captain America, but what about that part of you you are ashamed of, that part you want to keep hidden, that part you secretly indulge but you wished you didn't. The areas that you are obsessed with and some doc says you need MEDICATION to hamper it. That is where my horror is aimed. That is where our true struggle lies as humanity. No one is exempt from this, (not even psychopaths. They may not feel the same struggle we normal folks do, but they still have to deal with the universal consequences of their actions.)
It's hard for us to deal with the hidden and well disguised truth of ourselves, so I like to approach writing in a manner that will thoroughly engage your brain and heart. I turn taboos on their heels and say, “Embrace that dark inside you.” And while your conscious mind may be like “WHAT?!?”  Your subconscious mind may say, “Hmmm… I like this.”
 I say, “Murder that guilt society has imposed on you!” And your conscious mind says, “Excuse me, miss? Murder is BAD.”  Your subconscious says, “Hmm… if I murder the guilt, then the black and white lines, the rules, are erased and I'm free to examine this bad fault freely and objectively. Maybe it isn’t bad? Maybe it’s good.”
I say, “Embrace who you love, whoever, where ever they are. Risk it all!” And your conscious mind replies, “Ohh... first you say murder, now you say love. What the fuck kind of fruit cake are you?!?” Your subconscious says, “That's what I've been trying to get through all these years: accept yourself, passionately follow what drives that little ticker inside you, give yourself permission to love who you want, think what you want, give society the middle finger! Make up your own mind, then (once you've evicted everybody else's voice from your head, and you may finally be able to hear your own voice) decide how to proceed."
If you took all those chances where would they lead? Life or death? And if to death, is it a good death? Or, if it's life, is it the one you really want? Say, when you (finally) truly examine your inner-most passions, needs and shames, you decide to pack up and leave your spouse and children for a stripper named Candy in Reno. Is that a real life, or is it death in a pretty package?
I'm not you, so I can't tell you what is right/wrong, but I hope through my dark fiction to guide you to the point where you at least feel you can look at that part of yourself objectively by identifying and relating to characters who go overboard pursuing their own passions and beliefs (most likely taboo to society!). Seriously, nothing you will do will be nearly as horrible as beaning an old woman to death with a hairy, severed leg. I doubt you will ever have hot sex on a pile of dead bodies, nor participate in a WWF style to-the-death cage match like Ninja Skeleton vs Splatterpunk (yes, all this happens in Wanted: Single Rose). But with a little of the outrageous, with a little humor and charm, with a little bit of motherfucking HORROR, baby, it might provide you with enough distraction and acceptance to look inside yourself and say, hey I'm ok, I'm alright and this is the road I want to take, right or wrong, good or evil, gray fuzzies—whatever. I don't have to hide anymore and I accept it for what it is.
I’m not saying to let obsession turn you into a psychotic kills for thrills serial killer so you can be with your soul mate. What I am saying is don’t let society prevent you from pursuing your hidden passions and inner truths. It’s only when we can truly see and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses that we can be who we are meant to be. Don’t be afraid to take that forked road, you may just surprise yourself.

"Violent visions in our souls. You and I are brother and sister of the axe, husband and wife to the dark. The crow caws at midnight.”
It’s Halloween night. Timothy Sun stands in a garden of graves beneath the branches of the Tim Burton tree, his eyes deadlocked with the gorgeous creature in the raven costume. She beckons to him with one hand, while holding an axe in the other.
One month ago, he was a lonely shop owner hiding from a dark past. Then he met her. He met his violent violet and Timothy knew he’d never be alone again… if only murder wasn’t the only way to keep Velva Jones's affection. Either Timothy plays her game of secrets and murder or damns himself to an early grave. The game has begun, but how will it end?

About Mav SkyeWhen Mav Skye isn't turning innocent characters into axe murderers, refinishing old furniture, chasing around her spring ducklings, or reading the latest horror novel, she's editing at the mighty Pulp Metal Magazine. She adores puppies, pirates, skulls, red hots, Tarantino movies and yes, Godzilla. Especially Godzilla.

October 20, 2015

The Science and Voodoo of Profiling Killers: an interview with Michael Ransom, author of "The Ripper Gene"

A neuroscientist-turned-FBI-profiler discovers a genetic signature that produces psychopaths in The Ripper Gene, a thrilling debut novel from Michael Ransom.

Dr. Lucas Madden is a neuroscientist-turned-FBI profiler who first gained global recognition for cloning the ripper gene and showing its dysfunction in the brains of psychopaths. Later, as an FBI profiler, Madden achieved further notoriety by sequencing the DNA of the world's most notorious serial killers and proposing a controversial "damnation algorithm" that could predict serial killer behavior using DNA alone.

Now, a new murderer-the Snow White Killer-is terrorizing women in the Mississippi Delta. When Mara Bliss, Madden's former fiancée, is kidnapped, he must track down a killer who is always two steps ahead of him. Only by entering the killer's mind will Madden ultimately understand the twisted and terrifying rationale behind the murders-and have a chance at ending the psychopath's reign of terror.

Gef: What was the impetus behind The Ripper Gene?

Michael: This won’t be the answer you expect, but the real impetus behind this novel was actually a request from the former editor at Time Warner’s Mysterious Press, Ms. Sarah Ann Freed.  A long time ago I’d written a biomedical thriller which she really liked, and for a time it looked like we’d get a deal with her.  But over lunch one day she told me that she’d ultimately decided that it wasn’t quite their style.  That said, she made an informal deal with me- she told me if I would go back and write a bona fide mystery that 1) was in line with what she was publishing and 2) lived up to the first thriller I’d written, then she’d buy both of my first two novels.  Unfortunately she passed away before I finished The Ripper Gene.  But, she was a kind, generous person and she was the reason (the impetus) I tried to tackle the mystery genre.  I did, and fell in love with it.

Gef: What was one of the big eye-openers for you in the research of this novel?

Michael: Such a great question because there were so many.  The three main topics I had to research for this novel were: 1) the neurogenetics of antisocial behavior, 2) FBI profilers, and 3) serial killers.  Some of the more terrifying eye-openers undoubtedly came from my research into the methods and minds of the serial killers.  But the biggest eye-opener was probably the uncanny ability of FBI behavioral profilers to accurately predict so many characteristics of killers-at-large based only on their analysis of the crime scenes, the victimology and their empiric understanding of previous cases.  It’s definitely one of those pursuits that is part-voodoo, part science. Amazing stuff.  

Gef: With nature vs. nurture in regards to serial killers, I assume you lean towards the former?  

Michael: Well, I’m convinced that there is a biological basis for antisocial behavior: dozens of well-controlled, sufficiently powered genetic studies prove this, in my estimation.  However, I don’t believe “nature” is the major driver. I actually believe that nurture is probably the more important determinant, even if only by a narrow margin.  It’s important to note that neither one (nature or nurture) by itself is often a terribly strong predictor of outcome- rather, recent studies are essentially confirming what we’ve suspected for a long time ... that it's the interaction between nature and nurture that is important.  Nature and nurture can lead to catastrophic synergies when both predispose an individual to violence (‘bad’ genes in the context of a ‘bad’ or non-nurturing environment).  In other cases, however, they may be able to cancel the effects of each other when they’re opposed (‘bad’ genes negated by a ‘good’ environment, or vice versa).

And of course, it’s always the exception to the rule that fascinates us… the individual with perfectly sound genetics and a loving, caring up-bringing throughout childhood…who still nonetheless goes on to become a serial killer obsessed with cannibalizing their victims’ body parts…it’s typically the exceptions to the rule that grab our attention.

Gef: Different fields in law enforcement benefit from advances in technology. Did you find out about any particular advancements in how FBI profilers do their work nowadays as opposed to decades past?

Michael: Definitely.  ViCAP is a good example.  Nowadays, FBI and law enforcement use the Violent Criminals Apprehension Program to enter data about crimes across the country so that officers in other locales, regions or even states can search the characteristics of their local crimes and determine if they match an M.O. for cases in other states.  This often helps identify clues that help them break the cases.  There was no such tool in the old days…in fact it was a predecessor group to today’s BAU in the FBI that identified this need and proposed its use. 

Gef: With a novel like this, do you think the first person perspective offers a more immersive experience compared to if you had written it in a third-person style?

Michael: Absolutely.  As soon as I decided to write a mystery, I decided to write it in first person.  One of the reasons to do that was exactly as you say- because it's more immersive in terms of getting into the mind of the FBI profiler…but I think it's importantly immersive in another way too.  I like writing a novel in the first person because as the story proceeds, the reader only knows exactly as much as the narrator knows.  That makes for high tension and page-turning drama.  The mystery stays a mystery until the narrator figures it out.  I love that about first person mysteries.

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

Michael: I don’t overdo it, so I don’t put setting on the same importance level as the major characters in my novel, for instance.  I think characters are more important.  But setting is extremely critical nonetheless.  It helps set the mood.  I wanted The Ripper Gene to be instantly recognizable as a dark novel, and I wanted people picking it up to browse the Prologue to understand that this wasn’t a walk in the park or a biomedical thriller that takes place in the day time.  Rather, this was a serial killer thriller and mystery that has an edge and most of the action takes place in the dark, unlit areas of the human soul.  In this case, setting the beginning of the book on Halloween night in the back country gravel roads of the swamps and swampy wetland forests of rural Mississippi in the pitch black night served that purpose well.  

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Michael: I admire Michael Crichton for his ability to take cutting-edge science and ask “what if?”.  I admire Robin Cook and (the late) Michael Palmer for their ability to weave science and medicine into their stories.  I admire Thomas Harris and Patricia Cornwell for their ability to write FBI thrillers, and Michael Connelly for his ability to write compelling mysteries.  I admire Stephen King for his ability to pick you up and put you in the scene.  And just lately, I’ve begun to admire Harlan Coben for the way he just completely controls the first person narrative and makes it so authentic.  They’re all major influences on me. 

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?

Michael: Well this is a very subjective thing but one of the worst pieces of wiring advice I personally ever received was to create detailed character sketches for all the charters in your novel prior to starting to write it.  I tried to do that before I began writing my novel and found it to be the most ridiculous exercise.  I didn’t know half the things I was forcing myself to guess or make up about those characters, and I would rather discover these details as the characters come onstage and endure.  So the recommendation to create complete character sketches prior to writing my novels was probably the worst piece of advice I ever received.  It may work for some, but definitely not for me.

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

Michael: Video games and horror movies. I’m a video game fanatic. I even review video games from time to time.  I’m so addicted to them that I have to use them as a reward system.  I don’t permit myself to play them unless I’ve written the minimum number of target words that day.  I also really love horror films that truly scare or unsettle me.  My brother and I will text each other whenever we stumble upon a good one.  It Follows was excellent this year, and I was surprised by Daylight as well.  I love finding a good horror film…which reminds me…did I mention that I’d love to see The Ripper Gene made into a movie? 

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

(c) Frankie Corrado Photography
Michael: Folks can keep up with me by following me on Twitter, Goodreads or Facebook but the best way is probably at my author website www.michaelransombooks.com.  I like to work on multiple projects in parallel but will soon have to focus on only one.  For now, I’m working on three projects: 1) a biomedical thriller about a graduate student from Penn who discovers something he’s not supposed to find, 2) a biomedical mystery tentatively entitled Mythological Genomics, Inc., 3) and a follow-up to The Ripper Gene.  Looks like #3 is going to rise to the top!

The Ripper Gene [Forge Books / Macmillan] is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and in brick-and-mortar bookstores across North America.

October 19, 2015

Romance in Horror Stories: a guest post and giveaway by Sal Conte, author of "Baaad Dog"

Since when did man’s best friend become his very own worst nightmare? 

Harry wanted a dog. 

He’d wanted a dog ever since his mother gave away the cute little mongrel pup he and his brother adopted when they were kids. His mom gave the dog away because Harry and Lenny didn’t take care of her as promised. 
Now Harry is a grown man with children of his own. He brings home Queenie, a miracle of modern robotics who looks and acts just like a real dog. Big Mistake. 

“One of the beauties of the K9-233 is that they don’t eat or poop.” 

Harry’s wife, Pam, feels there’s something off about Queenie right from the beginning. And then strange things begin to happen: Harry’s five-year-old says Queenie talks to him. There’s the near fatal car accident after Harry makes Queenie spend the night in the garage for being naughty. But Harry loves Queenie—maybe a little too much. Will Harry realize there’s a murderous monster living under his roof before his entire family becomes dog food? 

Baad Dog is a horror, sic-fi thriller with a twist from the author of 80s pulp horror classics Child’s Play and The Power. Sal Conte has been dubbed “the modern master of the surprise ending,” and this one is full of surprises.


Sometimes, romance can be a horror.
This is definitely true in my novel Boyfriend From Hell (The Falling Angels Saga) where Satan shows up in the form of a handsome, charming boyfriend seeking a mate. Generally, however, in horror stories, the romance exists outside of the horror, often, in spite of the horror.
My love of romance in horror dates all the way back to the original The Invasion of The Body Snatchers movie. I saw the old black & white movie on TV as a kid with my older brother. We loved the movie, even though we were too young to understand that the romance in the film is what made it so powerful.
Love can be the glue to a horror story as it is in my latest novel, Baad Dog (EViL E Books) written by my pseudonym, Sal Conte. The relationship in the book begins innocently enough. A husband brings home a new family pet. Instead of romance, it’s love of family that takes Baad Dog to its climactic ending. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing anything more. Needless to say, it’s a horror story, so bad things happen.

So far the reviews for Baad Dog have been excellent, better than I could have hoped for. I am so proud of them. Please check out the reviews for yourself, and then grab a copy. Thanks.

~About the Author~

Sal Conte is the horror writing alter ego of Amazon #1 Teen Horror author, E. Van Lowe. As Sal Conte, the author turns his talents to gruesome horror with stunning results. Sal Conte is the author of 80s pulp horror classics “Child’s Play” and “The Power,” as well as recent shorts “The Toothache Man” and “Because We Told Her To.

“Baad Dog” is Sal Conte’s first solo ebook. You can visit him athttp://evanlowe.com/sal-contes-page/

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