Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: The Peoples Republic of Everything - by Nick Mamatas

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The People's Republic of Everything is made up of fourteen short stories and one novella from genre fiction writer Nick Mamatas and is the most varied assemblage of work I've read in some time.

Walking with a Ghost - A Lovecraft inspired piece right off the bat and one of the best in the collection.  It's the story of H.P. Lovecraft as AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Arbeitskraft - A steampunkish story about the elimination of the proletariat.  I even see a bit of our times in this unusual tale.

The People’s Republic of Everywhere and Everything - A crime noir story, of sorts, about stealing the Q-chip, or quantum chip, which promised to be capable of breaking any and every code.  This one has one of my favorite lines in the entire collection...

"...even the Revolution appreciated a pretty girl who shaved her armpits and smelled like patchouli rather than patchouli and landfill."

Tom Silex, Spirit-Smasher - Fiction that smacks of realism.  A story about an attempt to obtain the rights to reprint the works of a forgotten pulp writer...

"Tom Silex is like a Sherlock Holmes/ cowboy/ ghostbuster/ Harry Potter-type all rolled up into one."

The Great Armored Train - A fanciful tale of the Russian Revolution and a Polish girl who can turn into an owl.

The Phylactery - Sort of an essay on Greekness.  Phylactery.  It's a Greek thing.  A good luck charm, if you will.

Slice of Life - "Not many women of child-bearing age make arrangements to leave their bodies to science. Fewer still die while in their third trimesters."

North Shore Friday - (Please note that the digital edition does not contain this story)  A tale of immigration.  Here's a helpful tip: If you think the government is reading your mind.  Think in Greek.

The Glottal Stop - Living a life inside of social media...

"By the time she got out of “the joint”— she was thinking in TV clich├ęs from her own childhood now !— all the social media platforms would be obsolete and abandoned, a graveyard of controversies as accessible as floppy disks."

The Spook School - Inspired by time spent in Scotland.

A Howling Dog - The curious incident of a bark without a dog.  This was once produced as a full-cast audio adaptation at pseudopod.org and appears in print for the first time in this volume.

Lab Rat - Supplementing a freelance writer's income by being a lab rat.  I wonder how many of my writer friends have actually done this.

Dreamer of the Day - A terrific crime story of an aging daytime actress wanting her philandering husband dead.

We Never Sleep - It's the Pinkerton slogan.  Dieselpunk - Just like steampunk, but greasier and more efficient.

Under My Roof - What would happen if an otherwise ordinary man built a nuclear bomb, put it a garden gnome on his lawn and became a sovereign state.  I loved this novella to finish up the collection.

I found much of the work in The People's Republic of Everything to be introspective, clever, and fun.

Recommended.

The People's Republic of Everything is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Tachyon Publications.

From the author's bio - Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law, I Am Providence and the forthcoming Hexen Sabbath.  His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, and many other venues.  His fiction and editorial work have been nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and International Horror Guild awards.  Nick lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Review: glass slipper dreams, shattered - by doungiagam

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Not at all what I expected.  The very first story, "I'll make you famous," was like a sucker punch to the face.

Gam, as her friends call her, has a truly unique voice.  This collection of flash fiction or prose poetry, as some have called it, is so good, it's like the reading equivalent of Lays potato chips.  You can't eat (or in this case read) just one.

Here's a single sample of Gam's prose from "one day we will dance again"...

"'We have to go.'  She tugs on me and we run from the wreck, from our broken corpses, and toward the next life."

While not every story hit the mark for me.  Enough of them did to warrant this five-star review.  Among the numerous gems here is a piece simply entitled, "cold."  It's one of the most artistically powerful stories I've ever read.

As I'm reading any work for potential review, I always make notes for myself.  Among the comments I jotted down for glass slipper dreams, shattered was "the author has the heart of a poet which beats strongly even in her prose."  I know it seems as if I'm gushing, but this collection contains all the emotions and I can't help myself.

Do yourself a favor and try something different.  If I hadn't been totally exhausted when I picked this up to read just one story, I would have devoured this in a single sitting.

Wholly recommended.

Published by Apokrupha,  glass slipper dreams, shattered, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Doungjai Gam’s short fiction has appeared in Tough, LampLight, Distant Dying Ember, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and Wicked Haunted.  She was a sixteen-time winner in the Necon E-Books Flash Fiction contests and has appeared in the Necon E-Books Best of Flash Fiction Anthology series from 2011 on. she is a member of the New England Horror Writers.  Born in Thailand, she currently resides in Connecticut with author Ed Kurtz and their little black cat Oona. in her downtime, she enjoys road trips, lattes, and playing Pearl Jam on repeat.



Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories – One Legendary Venue - Edited by Matt Hayward & Doug Murano

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Welcome To the Show is a shared world anthology.  They don't always work, but this one's premise is simple enough and every one of the seventeen stories in the collection is true to the theme.

There's a well-known club in San Francisco where nearly everyone who's anyone has played at one time or another.  The place is called The Shantyman.  The thing is, despite its legendary status, the place has experienced its fair share of tragedy and there are tales to be told.

I wondered about the origin of the club's name, having never heard of a Shantyman before.  If you're at a loss, too, take a moment to Google the term.  Once you know it, the name makes perfect sense.

The table of contents is a veritable who's who of my favorite horror writers and a few I enjoyed reading for the first time.

 What Sort of Rube by Alan M Clark - Alan does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the anthology.  It's the story of a man named Beverly who performs at the Shantyman and also sells stories to magazines.  He meets a beggar in the alley outside the club and asks for a story in exchange for a meal.  This is that story.

Night and Day and in Between by Jonathan Janz - George Raft, but not that George Raft shows up at the club, looking for Clara, the current headliner.  But as we'll learn she's so much more than a singer.  This one has a delightful twist in keeping with what we know of the curse.

In the Winter of No Love by John Skipp - A great opening line from John...

"The street was a neon nightmare, a low-rent Disneyland of sleaze down which Marcie tromped in army boots. It was cold— at least for California, with the chill November wind blowing in off the ocean— and in her ankle-length coat of ratty fur, she felt like the least-naked woman on the strip."

Being old enough to remember the late sixties, Skipp took me all the way back with a very enjoyable tale.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes by Patrick Lacey - Vincenzo Lucille is living a nightmare.  Now seventy-two, he's the only member of an Italian prog rock band to survive a fateful performance at The Shantyman and he's finally ready to tell his story.

Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith - A tour bus, a stop at The Shantyman, a stranger with a special blend of weed...it all leads to a very strange trip, indeed.  One of my favorites in a book of terrific tales.

A Tongue like Fire by Rachel Autumn Deering - Words have meaning...and consequences.

Master of Beyond by Glenn Rolfe - Bringing a Ouiji board to a place like The Shantyman.  Not exactly a good idea.

Dark Stage by Matt Hayward - As evidenced in Matt's story, The Shantyman isn't always dark.  Sometimes a bit of light shines down, but occasionally even in light, there is darkness.

Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen - Loved this story.  Kelli presents her take on the "27 Club" and its link to The Shantyman.

Beat on the Past by Matt Serafini - A punk band, an old photograph, and the usual strangeness of The Shantyman.

True Starmen by Max Booth III - If you're not reading Max Booth, your missing out.  His description of hipsters is priceless...

"Thick neckbeards coated in Dorito dust.  Semen-stained fedoras.  Sarcastic T-shirts too small for the massive guts bulging out of them."

BTW, I'm officially old.  I thought for certain shoegazing had to be a made up thing.  But once again, thanks to Google, I learned something new.

Just to be Seen by Somer Canon - One of the stranger tales in a collection of strange stories.

Parody by Jeff Strand -  It's time for Zany Chester.  A wickedly funny tale that could only be told by Jeff Strand.

Ascending by Robert Ford -I've been a big fan of Bob's work for some time now.  His style, the way he puts his words together.  I just love it.  At first, I thought this was going to be a touching love story, but then I recalled this was The Shantyman and Bob did not disappoint.

The Southern Thing by Adam Cesare - Its been sometime since I've read an Adam Cesare story.  My fault, not his.  This is a good one.  A quick story, which packs quite a punch.

Running Free by Brian Keene - Best story in the anthology.  Brian hits it out of the park.  Wonderfully told.  Complete in every way.

We Sang in Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni - And we end, appropriately enough, with a bit of Cosmic Horror from the wonderful Mary SanGiovanni.

In conclusion, let me say how much I love a good shared world anthology.  This isn't that, nope.  It's a GREAT shared world anthology.  Without a doubt, Welcome to the Show is my favorite antho so far in 2018.

Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories - One Legendary Venue from Crystal Lake Publishing is available now in both paperback an for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Recommended.





Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: They Feed - by Jason Parent

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

"Better not to think of it.  Better to just run."

There was much more to the story of Tyler's incarceration for the shooting death of a former High School classmate, but the truth of the matter was he spent six years in Wichita State Penitentiary.

"Prison had not been easy for a fair, slender boy of sixteen, easy prey thrown into a den full of predators.  Yeah, the things he had seen, the things he had done, might have made him tougher.  They'd definitely turned the chip on his shoulder into a whole bag of Doritos."

When Tyler returned to the scene of the crime, all hell breaks loose.  As if it wasn't bad enough he was breaking parole by "borrowing" a car to get to Galveston State Park where he accidentally had shot Stevie Coogan wasn't bad enough, someone had followed him there and they had plans to exact their revenge.  But wait, there's more.

I could get into the diverse group of characters trapped in a shack while creatures make every effort to get at them, but I won't.  Will any of them survive till morning?  To say any more would take too much fun from the reader's experience in this wonderfully original creature thriller.

Jason Parent is one of the best new voices working in horror today and this is one of his finest.

They Feed is available now in both paperback and e-book from Sinister Grin Press.

From the author's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls Southeastern Massachusetts his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides with his cuddly corgi, Calypso.  When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except for the one with that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in on knot or takes somebody’s head off). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Review: Teeth - by Kelli Owen

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If the only vampires you have room for in your worldview are of the Bram Stoker's Dracula variety, you might as well stop reading this review right now.  I say this because Kelli Owen has done the unthinkable, she has created her own vampire mythos and in so doing erased nearly everything that has come before.  But it's OK, it's only a story, and a mighty good one at that.

First of all, don't call then vampires, they're lamians.  Use of the "v-word" is both ignorant and derogatory.  While they are not exactly immortal, lamians can live well into their second century.  You can see where this is going, no sense in spoiling all of Kelli's surprises.

Teeth plays well on multiple levels, with a wide variety of characters.  Humans who wish they were lamians, lamians who would like to be human again.  Then there are others who are just trying to fit in.  Of course, there is lots of misunderstanding, racism, and hate.  Deep down, Teeth is an allegory of the times in which we live.  Add to all this, a story about someone who is killing both humans and lamians and you end up with an ecellent read.

Kelli is gifted at expressing truisms from our everyday life and weaving them into her stories...

"He lifted the burger's bun and pulled two pickles free, apparently believing it was easier to remove them than to request a special order."  Ain't THAT the truth.

The bottom line is if you can accept a fresh take on vampires, sorry...lamians.  If you can accept a fresh take on lamians, I think you're more than likely going to enjoy Teeth.

Recommended.

Teeth is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Gypsy Press.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: House of Windows - by John Langan

4 of 5 Stars   

With NECON (the Northeastern Writers Conference) a week away, it's only appropriate I read a book I picked up at last year's event.

House of Windows by John Langan is a bit of an anomaly for me, a foray into the world of literary horror.  I tend to lean toward books written in the vernacular of the common people, like myself.  And then I go and use a word like vernacular, seems John's work is already having an affect on me.  I'm pretty sure that is the correct usage of affect.

 House of Windows is a story told by Veronica Croyden and is mostly about the events leading to her husband's disappearance.  It's a ghost story, of sorts.  Or at least a haunting since you could say both Veronica and her much older husband are haunted by the death of Roger's son from a former marriage.

Central to the tale is the Belvedere House name for a minor painter who had summered there half a century ago.

"We bought the house for a song and a fairly cheap tune at that."

Along the way, Langan provides occasional insight into the human condition.  I particularly liked his take on being a teenager...

"When you're a teenager—or at least, when I was, the last thing I wanted was for my parents to identify with me.  I wanted them to respect who I was, which was, of course, completely different from either of them, let me do what I wanted to, and provide food, shelter, and cash as needed.  Neither of them lived up to that ideal—not even close.  What it boiled down to was, Dad was slightly less annoying than Mom."

There were times I found myself asking, "Do I really care about any of these characters?"  But, I just couldn't pull away from the drama.

House of Windows was John Langan's first novel and it had a hard time finding a home.  The genre people weren't happy with all the literary stuff, and the literary people weren't happy with the genre stuff.

I am glad the story found a home which made it easier to get John's next work published, the critically acclaimed novel, The Fisherman.

Recommended.

Originally published in 2009, House of Windows, found a new home with Diversion Books in 2017 and is currently available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009/Diversion 2017), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). The Fisherman won the Bram Stoker and This Is Horror Awards for superior achievement in a novel in 2016.  He's one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine. In 2018, his next collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: The Switch House: A Short Novel - by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I first read Tim Meyer a bit over a year ago when I picked up a copy of his novel, Sharkwater Beach.  Here's what I had to say about that read...

"Sharkwater Beach is pure B-movie madness.  Lots of blood.  Loads of fun."

So, when the opportunity arose to read Tim's new book, The Switch House, I jumped at the chance to do so.

The premise of the TV show, which shares its name with the book, is simple enough.  The Shepards, Angela and Terry, switch houses with Rosalyn Jeffries and the producers film the results.

The real story comes to light after the cameras are put away and the show begins to air on TV.  Things turn a bit surreal as Angela begins to have a complete breakdown.  Is she hallucinating or is she really experiencing some kind of cosmic horror?

"Each of his appendages tore free from his body and disappeared somewhere into the surrounding realm, leaving crimson torrents in its wake.  Blood exploded from the fresh scarlet pits like a city fire hydrant in the dead heat of summer."

The Switch House defies description, but I will say it's enjoyable and a quick summer read, but that's not all.  When you're done with the main story, stick around for a few shorts.

How To Kill a Bear with a Bow and Arrow - A wonderfully twisted little tale of man against beast.  So much fun.

Siren's End - The last pub on the edge of the world...

"An Island of Women, he had said, which, to men who'd spent a great deal of time on the sea and limited hours amongst the company of women, sounded heavenly. They had set course at once and sailed west, toward the location of this great mystery."

Aperture - The dying days of the movie theatre projectionist and a bit of comic horror makes for a terrific little story.

The Switch House is coming July 26th for the Kindle from Evil Epoch Press.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Recommended.

From the author's bio - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore.  He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds.  He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review: Waking the Dead - by Kelli Owen

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Waking the Dead is a collection of four novellas from Kelli Owen, all dealing with death, graveyards, and ghosts in one way or another.  The result is a novel-length book which just might keep you up at night or even contribute to a nightmare or two.

Buried Memories - Hypnosis and a desire to quit smoking lead to dreams and a sibling Ben has completely forgotten.

"She's real. She's important.  I've had similar dreams all centered around this Becca person in various activities, all since I began the hypnosis."

A beautiful story which poses several fascinating, "What if?" questions.

Survivor's Guilt - The story of one man's unique way of providing for his family.  It's difficult to go into much detail here without major spoilers.  I'll just share this great opening paragraph, it hooked me.

"My grave is empty.  I'm not a vampire or zombie or some other form of the undead.  I'm not undead at all.  Matter of fact, I'm not dead.  I never was.  But the woman and girl, standing in front of the headstone etched with a name I no longer use, thinks I was--or rather, I am."

What follows is a remarkable story with not one, but two unexpected twists from a writer whose work I truly admire, a writer with wonderful descriptive skills with an eye for detail.

Survivor's Guilt is original, daring, gripping and even made me shed a tear.

Grave Wax - George Morey has been digging graves in Neillsville for nearly sixty years.  When he gets a second chance at love, with his first love, he wants it to last.  Not just forever, but for eternity.

Unfortunately, his wife, Rose, is battling both Alzheimer's and Cancer.

I really enjoyed the love story woven into this novella.  It actually moved me to tears.  I know how weird that sounds.  This big guy who loves everything horror and you throw in a love story and he cries like a little girl.

Don't get me wrong, Grave Wax is more than a love story, after all, this is a Kelli Owen book, so you know there's going to be a twist, and it's a good one.

Crossroads - A Ouiji board in a graveyard, at midnight, and a plan for revenge.  What could go wrong?  Typical teenaged shenanigans and wonderful dialog from a writer who has a feel for what young people can get up to in the dark...other than the obvious.

"Seriously, I saw this movie—it didn't end well."

If you've not been reading Kelli Owen, Waking the Dead is a great chance to get acquainted.  If you're already a fan of Kelli's work and missed any of these novellas, here's your chance to get caught up.

Waking the Dead was originally a limited edition hardcover from the fine folks at Thunderstorm Books, but is now available as an e-book so everyone can enjoy Kelli's work.

From the author's bio - Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.  She has attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general.  Her fiction leans toward thriller and quiet horror, with an occasional bloodbath and even rarer happy ending.  If you're looking for something novel-length from Kelli, you can't go wrong with my personal favorite, White Picket Prisons.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: Island of Bones (A Haunted Florida Novel) - by Gaby Triana

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I've stepped back a bit from reading and reviewing this year.  Now that I'm retired I have so many more options for my time.  For that reason, I haven't been reading as many new authors, or maybe I should say authors I haven't read before.  I tend to read what I want to read by those I'm already familiar with.  That being said, when Gaby Triana reached out to me requesting I read and review her new book, Island of Bones, I was a bit hesitant, until she mentioned Tim Waggoner had suggested she contact me.  Tim is one of my favorite authors and I've been fortunate to read more than a dozen of his books in the six years I've been reviewing horror.  So, his recommendation was good enough for me.

"I was Ellie Whitaker, unmarried, childless, and twenty-six years old.  And I'd been dreaming.  I wasn't dreaming as myself. I was dreaming as Nana." 

When Ellie's Nana, Leanne Drudge, passed away, it was decided to return her ashes to her old home in Key West, Casa de los Cayos.  The problem was that was a long time ago and Ellie had no idea where the house even was.  Not to be deterred, Ellie set's out on her quest and battles the owner of the current property, a category two hurricane, and ghosts to return her grandmother to her ancestral home and find the truth about her history.

"Nostalgia for a place I'd never known hit me hard.  The drink wasn't helping either.  Everyone had someone to party with, and I was alone with a ghost in my purse and memories of a place I'd never been.

The author has a light touch in telling her ghostly tale and fills her story with believable characters, some charming, others disagreeable, but all richly developed.

The title, Island of Bones, comes from the English translation of the original Spanish name for Key West, Cayo Hueso.  

All told, Island of Bones is one of the better pure ghost stories I've read recently, and one I can easily recommend.

The work is self-published and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Gaby Triana is the bestselling author of horror and YA novels, Island of Bones, Cakespell, Wake the Hollow, Summer of Yesterday, and many more, as well as 40+ ghostwritten novels for best-selling authors.  When she's not obsessing over Halloween, Christmas, or the paranormal, she's taking her family to Disney World, the Grand Canyon, LA, New York, or Key West.  Gaby dreams of living in the forests of New England one day but for the meantime resides in sunny Miami with her boys, Michael, Noah, and Murphy, her husband Curtis, their dog, Chloe, and four cats—Daisy, Mickey Meows, Paris, and Bowie.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Seeing Evil (Cycle of Evil Book 1) - by Jason Parent

5 of 5 Stars

Detective Samantha Reilly of the Fall River Police Department has known Michael Turcotte most of his life.  Brought together by tragic circumstances they've remained close for nearly a dozen years.

When we first meet Michael, he's in a High School restroom witnessing the bullying of Freshman, Jimmy Rafferty, being worked over by Glenn Rodrigues and his cronies.  Before the episode is over, Michael's head ends up in a toilet.

Tessa Masterson struggles with an abusive Father, Christopher, a wonderfully awful human being...

"Her life was like walking on a tightrope through a hurricane.  Always demanding perfection, Father set her up to fail.  And when she did, a spark lit behind his deadpan eyes.  Tessa wondered if it was pleasure."

Now that we know a bit about the players, what about the story? The first time Michael sees something that has yet to occur, the experience throws him completely off balance.  It happens when he see's Jimmy Rafferty kill Glenn Rodrigues right in a school hallway...

"If it wasn't a dream, then what was it?  A premonition?  A vision of the future?  Michael didn't subscribe to that psychic crap.  He'd never had psychic abilities before.  He wasn't special.  He hadn't felt any different when he's woken up that morning than he had a lifetime of mornings prior."

Seeing Evil is one of those reads where when life interrupts, you can't wait to find time to get back to the story.  Jason Parent has the ability to make me empathetic to his characters.  To both feel their joy and experience their pain.  Seeing Evil is filled with brilliant touches, more than once I heard my inner voice saying, "Oh, yeah."

Strongly recommended and I'm looking forward to book 2 in the series, Hearing Evil, which is available now.

Seeing Evil (Cycle of Evil Book 1) is available in paperback and e-book formats from Red Adept Publishing and can also be experienced as an Audiobook through Audible.

From the author's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls Southeastern Massachusetts his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides with his cuddly corgi, Calypso.  When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except for the one with that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in on knot or takes somebody’s head off). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.






Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Guest Post: The Cycle of Evil by Jason Parent


I don’t think anyone reading Seeing Evil would feel as though they hadn’t finished a complete story by the end of it. Certain characters live. Others die. The world moves on.

But it didn’t for me. I fell in love with the two main protagonists and knew by the time I had finished my first draft that there would be more to come. I just didn’t know how or what, but the idea of a series, with a trilogy to fill out Michael’s high school years, formed soon after.

Hence the sequel, Hearing Evil. As I’m sure you’re familiar with the Three Wise Monkeys, I’m also sure you can guess what the next book will be called. However, the title of the series is a Cycle of Evil. I have at least five potential plot lines for my protagonists to go down, at least one of which would see one or both of my two heroes dead, and maybe even before the last book.

This is what I think about when I can’t sleep, or in those quiet times in the shower or when I’m on the phone with my mother (kidding, Ma!). And since she won’t read this, I’m not really kidding. The only book I wrote with the idea of a sequel in mind was People of the Sun, and at the rate I’m going, maybe I’ll write that for fun when I retire.

Anyway, all of that’s getting way ahead of myself. Every book I write, I write with the intention of it being a stand-alone novel. Hearing Evil is my first sequel, and if you ignore the epilogue that hints toward the next book, you have a complete story, with most but not all loose ends tied up in a pretty bow.

In this book, I was thinking series. I was thinking universe building. And I was thinking an overarching Big Bad, one based in fact. Much like I pulled from both the Branch Davidians and Joshua Milton Blahyi in A Life Removed, the ultimate villain in the next in the Cycle will be drawn from history and will be penultimate.

Originally, I planned to tie A Life Removed into the Cycle of Evil series, and there will be some crossover references for my diehard readers, but the next story is going to be Sam and Michael’s greatest test. So whether anyone wants to read it or not, Speaking Evil is a book I need to write, and it’ll probably be over 400 pages. So it will be a while coming. Not George R.R. Martin timing, but you know… close.

In the meantime, though, I will have another sequel coming… Well, more of a spinoff.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: The Beast of Brenton Woods - by Thomas R. Jackson

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This is the first book I've ever read by Jackson R. Thomas and I'm already looking forward to more.  It's no secret what The Beast of Brenton Woods is about.  Just look at that cover.

It's been a while since I've been able to sink my teeth into a werewolf story and this one has plenty of blood, guts, and bone-crunching action.

With a nod to horror writers who came before him, Jackson R. Thomas acknowledges the likes of Jack Ketchum, Gord Rollo, Edward Lee, and Stephen King, through his character's love of the genre.  His writing style is easy to read and relatable to a young audience...

"...this whole thing is crazy.  I just want to watch Adventure Time and pretend everything is normal, ya know?  It' Summer for crying out loud."

And then there's the gore, after all, that's what you came for...

The beast chewed its way through the policeman's neck, enjoying every tendon, muscle, and grisly, tasty bit."

What we have here is a strong debut, and a solid werewolf story.

The Beast of Brenton Woods is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Alien Agenda Publishing.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Jackson R. Thomas sleeps during the day, writes and works at night and doesn't like social media.  He's worked as a janitor, cashier, fast food slave, and a night auditor at a hotel you don't want to stay at...if you know what's good for you.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: Husk - by Rachel Autumn Deering

5 of 5 Stars

About two years ago, I met Rachel Autumn Deering at a Horrible Saturday event at the York Emporium used book store.  I picked this up at the time and it kinda got buried on my ever-growing TBR pile and just never got read.  Today, I finally corrected that error.

This novella is one of the most compelling and heartbreaking things I've read in recent memory.

Husk is some damn fine writing.  The kind that gets under your skin, makes you think, makes you downright angry.  Just because our servicemen and women come home doesn't mean the battles have ended.  For many, they have just begun...

"They got me seeing a doctor down to the VA hospital every few weeks.  Poking and prodding and asking me all kinds of questions a man hopes nobody would ever ask him.  Keeping me doped up and all, trying to put me back together, I guess.  I got a pill to help me sleep, one to perk me up, one to calm my nerves, and one to make sure I don't just fly plumb off the handle."

A tragic tale that left me reeling.

Strongly recommended.

Husk is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Rachel Autumn Deering is an Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated writer, editor, and book designer from the hills of Appalachia.  Her debut prose novella, Husk, was published in 2016 and drew praise from critics and fellow writers alike. Her upcoming novel, Wytchwood Hollow, is set for publication in 2018.


Review: Bones: A collection of monsters - by Andrew Cull

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

A solid collection of longer short stories and a bonus short-short make up this novella-length collection from Australian writer-director Andrew Cull.

Did You Forget About Me? - Cam Miller is a struggling actor and at age thirty he has yet to make his mark.  When his long-estranged father dies and leaves Cam his childhood home he contacts his sister and makes plans to visit the property.  The trip brings back unpleasant memories and more.  Cull makes effective use of his filmmaker's eye for detail. Although this is only a short story, Did You Forget About Me? had something that's been missing in a lot of books I've been reading recently and that's "atmosphere."

Hope and Walker - This is a charming story with a touch of horror. The opening lines, "We were both 10. But he was dead.  And I sat drawing him", immediately drew me in, so important with a short story.  This is one exceptional short story.  Highly recommended.

The Trade - Another really strong opening line begins this story of something from the woods leaving dead things for a troubled family. "I was seven and that was the Summer death stalked our home."  This tale features a slow build with a killer ending.

Knock and You Will See Me - I can't stress enough how a strong opening line can make a short story.  Here's another one.  "We buried Dad in the Winter.  It wasn't until the Spring that we heard from him again."  This is one creepy story.

The Rambling Man - A wonderfully gruesome short to wrap up this collection.

Recommended.

Bones is available in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Andre Cull is a writer and director of The Dark and The Possession Of David O'Reilly (UK title: The Torment). His first novel, Remains, is due for release later this year.

Review: The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man Series Book 1) - by Chris Sorensen

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

At it's heart, The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man Series Book 1) is a ghost story and a very good one to boot.

Here's a killer opening line for you...

"The boy woke to the sound of his screams."

The back story is that of an abused child, but part of the mystery is the child's identity.

"He hesitated...but why? He'd already made this run two times this week. Both Monday and Thursday, he's awakened screaming, bringing down the Old Man's wrath, and sending him here. To the penalty box. To time out. To the Night—"

Peter and Hannah Larson are moving back to Peter's hometown. With his mother passed and his father moving into a Nursing home, the plan was to take up residence in the family homestead, but when they arrive they find that the property has been pomised to the home to help pay for his father's care. But there is an older property owned by Peter's father.

"...this was every house in every horror movie he'd ever seen."

Peter makes his living reading audio books and after he set's up his sound booth in the basement of the property, the fun begins.

"'I saw something,' he said, laughing maniacally inside because he hadn't seen something, he had seen many many things, each more horrifying than the last. 'Inside, I saw something.'"

Suitably creepy, with plenty of "Oh, WOW!" moments. The author has a knack for chapter cliff-hangers that make you want to start reading the next chapter immediately. I loved the way Sorensen developed and moved his characters through the story. One character, Ellen, a sort of psychic/paranormal investigator was absolutely wonderful as was Peter's childhood friend, Riggs, owner/manager of the local watering hole.

A comfortable if not comforting read. Little touches, universals, make reading this book a pleasure, but at the same time the author is creating a sense of unease.

Although I was a bit thrown by the ending, I'm hoping for some clarification in book 2 of The Messy Man series.

Chris Sorensen is a relatively new author, although he's been telling other's stories as an audio book reader for years now. His own work is well worth reading. I finished reading this book the same week I saw Winchester in the theater. Of the two ghost stories. I much preferred The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man Series - Book 1)

Recommended.

The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man Series  Book 1) is published by Harmful Monkey Press and is available in both papaerback and Kindle formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Chris Sorensen spends many days and nights locked away inside his own nightmare room, having narrated over 200 audiobooks (including the award-winning Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix ). He is the recipient of three AudioFile Earphone Awards, and AudioFile singled out his performance of Sent as one of the ‘Best Audiobooks of 2010.’ The Butte Theater and Thin Air Theatre Company of Cripple Creek, Colorado have produced dozens of his plays including Dr. Jekyll’s Medicine Show, Werewolves of Poverty Gulch, and The Vampire of Cripple Creek. He is the author of the middle grade book The Mad Scientists of New Jersey and has written numerous screenplays including Suckerville, Bee Tornado and The Roswell Project.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Slashvivor! - by Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas

5 of 5 stars     Review copy

It's 1983.  An accidental nuclear war has left the US with just 1% of its former 234 million residents.  Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas have created such a world and have decided to have some fun with it.

Take for example the tagline for the TV ads fo Alino Al's Discount Surplus, "Come on down!  It's not illegal.  In the Geiger Lands, nothing is!"

That is so true and includes what passes for entertainment...

"From the ruins of Vancouver to the Cuban Keys, from the Allied Texas Republic to the Irradiated Plains, welcome back, ladies and gents, to the most popular show on the continent!"

Try Not to Die, where contestants, drawn from the populace at large, are pitted against notorious serial killers, including an evil animatronic Abraham Lincoln.  But when the producers selected Dawn Churchill, they never expected what was to follow.

"We present to you 45,000 square feet of mayhem, terror, and pure entertainment!"

Personally, I found this work to be imaginative with many surprises.  Slashvivor! is horror in the extreme and not for the faint of heart.  Kind of like The Hunger Games on acid.  If you like lots of blood in your horror, I promise this book will not disappoint.

Slashvivor! is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Sinister Grin Press.

Totally recommended.









Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: The Goat Parade - by Peter N. Dudar

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Warren Pembroke has lived his whole life with his deformity and he plans to make the world pay.

A mixture of devil-worship, sacrifice, and drugs...

"The hallucination began. It started with his right hand— the deformed hand— growing and stretching into a goat's hoof. He watched with terrified fascination as the nubs where his truncated fingers had been hardened into a resin of dead keratin cell tissue. A layer of wooly goat fur sprouted down his forearm, across his wrist, and over the newly formed animal foot. The effect never ceased to amaze and terrify him. Warren knew the metamorphosis was only a hallucination, a temporary alteration that allowed him to commune with the Dark Lord, so he pushed the fear away and searched for the power behind it."

"Tobacco Joe" Walton made a deal with Ol' Scratch when he was just a young man.  Joe became a famous bluesman, but the devil seldom plays fair and he spent most of his life in prison.  He's being released at age sixty-seven and Scratch is not done with him yet.

Reporter, Erik Marsh, is done with the crime beat.  The lifestyle has cost him his marriage and it's time for something different, but someone forgot to tell one criminal in particular.

Add to the mix a street performer, the amazing Svetlana Barnyck of the Carpathian Great and Tiny Circus.

All of these diverse threads and more are woven into a compelling tale that is as far-fetched as it is believable.  OK, some parts are more believable than others, but it's still a good yarn.

This is the second time I've encountered Devil's Breath in a story. The first time was in Greg F. Gifune's novel of the same name. This is a very powerful drug and plays an important part in the story.

There's even a sly reference to Frank Dodd, a character from Stephen King's Dead Zone.  Quite plausible as both stories are set in the same general area.

There is no happy ending in The Goat Parade.  I really like that in my horror as more often than not, there are no happy endings in real life, either.

Recommended.

The Goat Parade is available in paperback and e-book formats from Grinning Skull Press.

From the author's bio - Peter N. Dudar was born and raised in Albany, NY.  A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and an alumnus of the University at Albany, he moved to Maine in 1995 and began his writing career shortly after.  His first novel, A Requiem for Dead Flies, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2013.  His other books, The Angel of Death, Dolly and Other Stories, Where Spiders Fear to Spin, and Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers, continue to draw critical praise and adoration from genre fans everywhere.  His short fiction can be found in numerous horror anthologies and literary websites.  Dudar is a proud member of the New England Horror Writers and is a founding member of the writer's group, The Tuesday Mayhem Society.  He currently lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine with his wife and daughters.

Guest Post: The Sophomore Jinx - by Peter N. Dudar

The Sophomore Jinx
Peter N. Dudar

I have a new novel out right now. Back in February, Grinning Skull Press released THE GOAT PARADE, which is the follow-up to my debut novel A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES (released back in 2012). That’s a six-year span between books, and consequently six long years that I’ve been sweating out the Sophomore Jinx.

That’s not to say that I’m superstitious or anything like that. I don’t go around throwing salt over my shoulder or avoid stepping on cracks as I wander down the sidewalk. But the Sophomore Jinx is a real thing and I’d been warding off heart palpitations and anxiety attacks all the way up to the book’s release. I’m not saying this because I’m conceited or have an enormous ego, but part of me believes that it’s because my first book, REQUIEM, got a lot more praise and success than it probably should have. That book got lots of attention and wound up being a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award (for debut novel category) in 2013. Back then, it was a weird, exciting ride for me because I’d been writing and publishing short fiction for nearly two decades and readers still had no idea who I was. It felt good to finally be read. It felt good to taste success.

But my brain is pretty complicated, and even though I was enjoying myself for the moment I kept thinking that my next novel needs to be better. It needs to have more conflict and sharper characterization and really knock readers off their feet. I need for this to happen because I need to prove to myself that the first book’s success wasn’t a fluke. I don’t want to be that writer who falls to the Sophomore Jinx, where my career starts its downhill slide right after getting that first taste of success. And I really didn’t want to see bad reviews on Amazon, where readers were claiming that the new book was nowhere as near as good as REQUIEM.

I don’t want my debut novel to be the benchmark by which everything else I write gets judged.

Imposter Syndrome is a very real thing for some of us authors. As I’ve said, I’ve been writing and publishing fiction for a long time now, and I still get nervous when going to conferences and conventions because a part of me feels like I haven’t earned my place yet. And that’s ridiculous because, even if I haven’t been putting out full-length novels, I still managed to release three novellas and a full-length collection of short stories since my debut novel was released. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing. It’s just that part of me felt intimidated by the Sophomore Jinx, and wouldn’t commit to writing a novel until I was sure I had a great story to tell. Three whole years would pass by after REQUIEM before I started writing THE GOAT PARADE.

The new book was cobbled together from a lot of failed story ideas from my past. Foremost, it was supposed to be a screenplay in homage to Giallo films that author L.L. Soares and I talked about writing. It was going to be a very visceral murder mystery, and I had developed this idea of a hard-drinking, broken down crime beat reporter who ends up falling in love with a movie star, only she was going to get killed and the murderer was going to pin the crime on him. But both of us had other projects going on at the time, with Soares releasing his novels ROCK N’ ROLL and HARD in fairly close succession. The idea never left me, though, and that was the starting point when I sat down and began typing.

But I’d also had a story idea about an old Bluesman who’d traded his soul to the Devil for talent and success, but then never got to use it because he was tricked into committing a terrible crime and going to prison. That idea was at least a decade old, and meant to be a short story, but I always felt like there was more to “Tobacco Joe” Walton’s story than I understood at the time, so I left that one on the back burner until I could discover where it was meant to be used. And on the opposite side of that coin are Rufus and Leon Hickey, the brothers who killed Joe’s father and raped his mother when he was a boy. They are the antagonists that Joe exacts revenge on, that land him in prison. Those boys came from a failed novel I wrote years ago called AMONG THE LIVING, which was a mix between Ken Kesey’s FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and H.P. Lovecraft’s HERBERT WEST, REANIMATOR

That book was poorly written and dreadfully executed by a young neophyte author who has improved his craft enormously since then. Perhaps one day I’ll brush that one off and see if it’s salvageable.

The final touch was coming up with a storyline about the Omniscient Eye, which allows Svetlana Barnyck the ability to see into other people’s souls. That concept has always been terrifying to me; that someone else could see what I was thinking or somehow invade my private memories without permission. If someone were to ever have that ability, I’d hope and pray they’d put it to good use and help people rather than use it for their own power and personal gain. And, of course, they’d have to hide it so that others wouldn’t try to steal it.

Once I had all of these ideas, it was a matter of connecting dots and plot points, creating tone and atmosphere, developing conflicts, and maintaining precise continuity. Which wasn’t easy. The first draft was a mess. I’d worked without a proper outline and it was enormously evident when I reread and started revisions. I had to grab an old spiral-bound notebook and create a proper outline, where I could plot the chronology of events and organize character arcs correctly. Then I really went to work.

The time span from when I began writing to the day I got my acceptance from Grinning Skull Press was nearly two years. And that is a hell of a long time compared to some of my colleagues, who can sit down and write books with ease and precision in very little time. 

I’ve mentioned Imposter Syndrome above, and that’s a great part of it. Honestly, I’ve never felt as if I was going to turn my writing into a professional career—it’s something that I do as a hobby and because I love the craft of writing. You’ve heard other authors claim, “I’d write anyway, even if nobody read my work and I wasn’t getting paid for it!” There’s a degree of truth to that, but still…it’s enormously rewarding to have people read your work. It’s even better when someone posts a 5-star review on Amazon. It gets addictive. It becomes important that readers see that you’ve improved since your last book. You don’t want to feel like they’ve wasted their time reading your book, and you really don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted your time writing it. That’s the risk you take being an artist.

I’d like to think I’ve beaten the Sophomore Jinx. THE GOAT PARADE has gotten some terrific reviews so far. Genre fans are talking about it. And most importantly, they’re mentioning it independently, without comparing it to REQUIEM. So now I get to sit back and try to enjoy this wild, exciting ride once again. Only this time, I’m going to let myself relax a bit more. This time I can finally feel satisfied that I’ve earned it. I love this book, and I’m very satisfied that I told the story exactly how I wanted to tell it. I hope you will enjoy it, too.

From the author's bio - Peter N. Dudar was born and raised in Albany, NY.  A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy and an alumnus of the University at Albany, he moved to Maine in 1995 and began his writing career shortly after.  His first novel, A Requiem for Dead Flies, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2013.  His other books, The Angel of DeathDolly and Other StoriesWhere Spiders Fear to Spin, and Blood Cult of the Booby Farmers, continue to draw critical praise and adoration from genre fans everywhere.  His short fiction can be found in numerous horror anthologies and literary websites.  Dudar is a proud member of the New England Horror Writers and is a founding member of the writers group , The Tuesday Mayhem Society.  He currently lives in Lisbon Falls, Maine with his wife and daughters.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: Death Witch: A Rape/Revenge Thriller - By Nick Cato


4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If you follow Nick Cato's SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES column at the CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT website, you likely have a good idea of his taste in horror.  If you're not familiar with his work there, the subtitle for Death Witch: A Rape/Revenge Thriller, should give you some idea.  If you are offended by the subject matter, you may want to steer clear of the author's latest novella.  But, if you're up for it, get ready for a thrill ride as Cato pulls no punches.

After being beaten and stabbed by her former boyfriend, Beth Werner has moved from NYC to just outside Fultonville, NY.  Her attempt at a fresh start doesn't quite work out.  Raped by four men who saw her at a bar and followed her home, she begins to plan her revenge.  Not giving anything away here, it's all in the title, after all.  Throw in a bit of the occult and you have a taut text of sixty pages.

Recommended with the warning above.

Death Witch: A Rape/Revenge Thriller will be published later this year by Dynatox Ministries.

From the author's bio - Nick Cato is the author of one novel, six novellas, and one short story collection.  He writes the SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES column for the acclaimed website, CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  A collection of his column in book form is forthcoming.  His next novel is titled, Lovers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Dangerous boys - by Greg F. Gifune

5 of 5 Stars

In my humble opinion, Dangerous Boys is the first must-read novel of 2018.  Greg Gifune's latest work falls squarely in the crime fiction category and is a brilliant tale set in the Summer of  '84.

New Bedford, Mass, was a city like many others.  A city with both good and bad.  In many ways, Ritchie and his friends were much like the city they lived in.

There's a line early on in Dangerous Boys which refers to the city but also sums up its central characters.  "Once darkness took hold, the city turned even more dangerous than in daylight hours."

I was immediately and totally engrossed by this coming of age tale.  Ritchie, Aldo, Petie, Fritz, Ray, and Dino.  "Dino Abruzzo.  We called him Ma, which was a nickname that stood for mental Abruzzo."   Under no circumstances, did you want to do anything to set Dino off.  "When it came to Dino, it was like hanging out with a tiger.  All fine and good until the tiger went tiger on your ass."

I found myself easily lost in the world created by the author. His words paint the picture of the life and times of these characters...

"I set the small oscillating fan to high, smoked a couple cigarettes, finished the beer and threw my headphones on. Rocking along with DIO for a while, I watched the shadows play along the walls and ceilings, the lights from passing cars on the street below gliding through the room like spirits, as lost and trapped within these walls as I was. Although it served as a sanctuary of sorts, my room was no different than the rest of the apartment: small, cramped, dusty and old. The building was dying. Slowly. Just like everything else in this neighborhood. It wasn’t much, but I was used to it, and it was the only room I ever remembered having, so I made the best of it. We’d lived in the building, in this same third-floor apartment, since I was five years old. People always told me nothing stayed the same. Here, nothing ever changed." 


The story is relentless and the pace is blistering as the characters and their lives roll along to the inevitable destiny they all share.  By the middle of the story, I felt I knew these characters intimately.  Like I was one of them like I was a part of the gang.

It's been a long time since I've read a book as engrossing as Dangerous Boys.  I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Dangerous Boys is published by Down and Out Books and is available now in both Paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Greg F. Gifune is a best-selling, internationally-published author of several acclaimed novels, novellas and two short story collections. Greg's work is predominantly in the horror and crime genres. Two of his short stories, Hoax and First Impressions have been adapted to film. His novel Children of Chaos is currently under a development deal to be made into a television series, and his novel The Bleeding Season has been called one of the best horror/thriller novels of the decade. Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol, a few cats, and his beloved dog Dozer.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Interview: Thirteen Questions with Greg F. Gifune

Every now and again, it's nice to shake things up just a bit.  Thanks to recent nor'easters, power outages, and the like.  Here is the first in what may turn out to be a series of occasional interviews with some of the best genre writers in the business.  Now, it is with great pleasure I present Thirteen Questions with Greg F. Gifune.

1)  Tell us a bit about yourself, Greg.

I never know quite how to answer this kind of thing, Frank, I guess just refer to my bio.
I’m a professional novelist and editor, have been for twenty years, live in Massachusetts with my wife of 31 years and our dog Dozer.


2)  Anyone who follows you on FB has seen that post as often about your dogs, Bella & Dozer, as you do about your work.  I was saddened to hear of Bella's passing recently, but could you share a little about your love for these animals.

It’s really funny. Dozer and Bella have almost as many fans around the world as I do. There are a handful of people who could not possibly care less about what I’m up to and only follow me so they can keep up with my dogs and their exploits, which I think is hilarious, sweet and absolutely wonderful.  Bella, in particular, came to us as a rescue when she was two, and immediately had a huge impact on our lives, including Dozer. Unfortunately she had cancer and succumbed to it in February, just three days after the death of my mother, actually. It was a horrible month, to say the least. Bella was a character and a very loving girl and we all miss her terribly. My love for animals is something that’s been a part of me for as long as I’ve been alive. From the time I was a little boy I had a connection and affinity for animals, and it grows stronger the older I get. I often prefer the company of animals to humans, and I consider them to be our superiors, not the other way around. I can only dream of loving as unconditionally as Dozer does, of having a heart as pure as his. I think at their best, animals make us better human beings, better people, if we let them, and I’ve always believed the way someone treats and considers animals speaks volumes about who they are. Dozer brought a tremendous amount of healing and joy and love to our lives from the moment we met him as a puppy, and, so did Bella. Dozer continues to enrich our lives every day, as does Bella’s memory.


3)  When did you start writing and when was it that you had your first story published.

I’ve been writing literally since before I could write.  I have an older sister, and she used to write down my stories for me as I dictated them as a little boy.  Then she’d illustrate them.  It’s one of my fondest memories from childhood.  I don’t ever remember it not being part of me. I always had to get things out, to write them down, to exorcise myself of them in a way, and writing was a way to do that.  I think I was born with some God-given talent, as I had this basic ability to write and have no idea how I got it or where it came from.  It was just something I could do and felt the need to do.  I then worked very hard and learned my craft both formally and on my own, and continued to hone it (and will continue to do so forever).  I decided to give writing a shot professionally when I was in my early 30s.  I went just shy of five straight years with nothing but rejections. My first published fiction was back in the late 90s, my story Down to Sleep (which a few years later became the anchor and title of one of my two short story collections). It was accepted by a small magazine called Dream International Quarterly, and things took off from there.


4)  Among all of your works to date, do you have a favorite, and what would it be an why.

I really don’t.  I’ll spare you the whole ‘they’re like my children’ routine (or I won’t, I guess, since I just said it), but all of my novels and novellas have their own life and meaning and value.  There are some that hold a special place for me, THE BLEEDING SEASON, because it was my first published horror novel (my second novel published) and it really put me on the map, so to speak, led to everything else and has since garnered a cult classic status in the genre with many.  Other novels like SAYING UNCLE, BLOOD IN ELECTRIC BLUE, DANGEROUS BOYS and GARDENS OF NIGHT I have deep personal connections with, but then everything I write has that to a degree, or I don’t write it. So no favorites, really, they all have their own unique power and importance to me in their own ways.


5)  Who is your favorite genre writer and your favorite non-genre write and why choose them?

Too many to name, frankly, but whoever I’m drawn to, it’s because their work speaks to me on some level.


6)  Do you ever write under a pseudonym?

Very rarely, but I have done it a couple times.


7)  What is your writing schedule like? Do you have a set routine, or do you write when the spirit or the muse moves you?  Do you actually have a muse?

I treat it like the job it is, in that specific regard.  I get up, have some coffee, and go to work in the morning (usually around 7-7:30). On good days I generally wrap up around 5:00-6:00, but many days end up being twelve or fourteen hour days, particularly if I’m dealing with deadlines and juggling multiple projects (which is most of the time).  I usually work Monday through Friday and try my best to take weekends off when I can.  There are those weeks where I have to work six or seven days a week, but generally it’s five. My muse is my mortgage and general desire to live indoors. Honestly, what moves me is internal.  It’s emotional, spiritual even.  It’s that feeling deep inside that needs to get out. It’s a purge for me, which is why I’ve always been in the Dorothy Parker camp in that I don’t necessarily like writing, but love having written.


8)  I'm not going to ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" per se, but how about this?  What was the strangest or most unusual source for a story idea?

Thank you for not asking that (I’ve been asked that so many times in countless interviews over the years I couldn’t even give you a number), and besides, I never know how to answer it anyway, because the truth is, I have no idea.  As for the strangest source, probably just life experiences, in that everything I do comes from that (suffice to say I’ve experienced a lot, good and bad, enough for several lifetimes) or something I’m fascinated by/with. It’s always the jumping off point in some way, shape or form.


9)  What is the best piece of advice you ever got when you were starting out as a writer and who gave it to you?

Never take yourself seriously but always take the work very seriously, and always respect both the work and the craft. Try not to take things personally, as it is a brutally difficult and often cruel business.  Always remember that while it is art, it is also a business, and if you’re a professional (or want to be) behave that way. Don’t worry about being ‘published’ and concentrate instead on learning and honing your craft.  Always strive to be the best writer you can be, and the publishing part will come. Never stop learning and honing your craft, because the moment you do, you’re dead in the water. Don’t allow failure to be a stumbling block but an opportunity to improve and fight harder to succeed. Prove them wrong. Respect those who came before you who have earned it and deserve it.
All that came from various mentors I was fortunate enough to have known and learned a great deal from.


10) I'm sorry to say, I haven't read all of your works...yet.  But, I have read nine, and among my favorites are Babylon Terminal, Savages, and my absolute favorite, Dreams the Ragman.  Please share a little about the genesis of the later.

The genesis was a friendship, the relationship between the two main characters and how it ends up defining them both in ways neither suspected it might (and yet somehow knew all along it would). It is probably the most polarizing thing I’ve written, because I got some angry letters and emails from people who weren’t comfortable with some of the themes I explored in the work. In fact, I got my favorite bit of hate mail ever when Ragman was released. One guy wrote to tell me how angry the novella had made him because it was ‘nothing more than a thinly veiled love story that attempts to normalize homosexuality.’  He was correct, of course, except that it’s not thinly veiled at all, and simply explores the complexities of love all human beings are faced with, the darkness and the light. Although it was clearly his intention to upset me, I’ve always considered his criticism a source of extreme pride, and have kept his letter in my desk to this day. So, people tend to either love or hate Dreams the Ragman, and that’s cool, because I knew that would be the case going in. The overwhelming majority of readers were really moved by it, though, and I think saw and understood that despite all the darkness in the piece, there is also a universal humanity that runs through it that is (hopefully) just as powerful as the more disturbing parts.  Not long after the release, it ended up winning a reader choice award, which was nice. I don’t care about awards in the arts and generally find them self-serving and rather silly, honestly, but when they come directly from readers, it’s a completely different animal.  Those (I’ve been fortunate enough to win two) mean the world to me, and I’m proud Ragman was one.  It’s also dedicated to the late Tom Picccirilli, a friend and big supporter of mine, who was not just a great writer, but a great guy. So I’m glad to hear it’s a favorite of yours, thanks.


11) Your latest book is Dangerous Boys, which IMHO is right up there with Dreams the Ragman.  I don't really see this one as horror, although it has some elements of that.  What it is is some damn fine storytelling.  Why this story and why set it in the early eighties?


Thanks.  It definitely is not a horror novel.  It’s a crime and coming-of-age novel more mainstream in nature.  I have primarily written in the horror genre, but have also always written (though less frequently) in the crime genre as well. The background with this story is kind of involved, and very personal. My mother just died recently, but a couple years ago, she became quite ill. We were always close, and one of the more difficult things I’ve ever faced was watching this vibrant and extremely intelligent woman have to go into a nursing home and slowly waste away with not only physical ailments, but the onset of dementia. Heartbreaking and very stressful, I tried my best to return to work, but found I couldn’t concentrate enough to write. I had been through some horrible things in the past and I’d never had this happen before. It wasn’t writer’s block exactly, in that I knew what I wanted to write and did want to write it, I just couldn’t seem to focus to the extent necessary to actually get it done. So for a couple weeks, I didn’t even try. Then I thought that maybe if I did some editing it might help, as sometimes that can get my creative juices flowing. I went back through all my unfinished projects, numerous novels and novellas I had to put aside for various reasons, and happened to come upon DANGEROUS BOYS. I had written the first chapter of this novel a couple of years before with every intention of finishing it, but due to other contracted projects I had to focus on instead, it ended up on the back burner and I hadn’t returned to it.  I figured editing that first chapter might help, so I did, and I made some significant changes and tightened it up quite a bit.  I also realized I really liked what I had, and just as when I’d first written that opening chapter, I had the entire novel in my head and could see the entire thing before me.  The problem was writing it. So I played a little game with myself and decided to see if I could write the second chapter, telling myself I’d stop there. For some reason, I was unable to write anything else during that time, but DANGEROUS BOYS flowed out of me with an ease I’ve rarely experienced even at the best of times and with total focus. I went chapter by chapter, fully expecting the same lack of focus to eventually become a problem. But it didn’t, so I kept going.  Do one more chapter and see what happens, I’d tell myself. And a year later, the novel was done. Much of the novel is loosely based on real incidents and the main characters are all based on compilations of guys I knew and ran with back in the day, so I knew this story, I knew these people, and I knew what I wanted to do with it. What amazed me was that I was able to do it when I could do nothing else. Miraculously, once DANGEROUS BOYS was finished, I found I was once again able to write other things and to work on other projects, so it freed me in a way nothing else had to that point. The reason I set it in the early 1980s is because everything it’s based on took place during that timeframe, and it helped with the authenticity and my ability to have these people act and speak in ways they likely never would in 2018. These guys, and their story, fit and belong in that time. DANGEROUS BOYS was a novel I always wanted to write, and now that’s it’s done and out there, I’m very proud of it.


12) When you're not writing, what are some of your favorite things to do?


I love to spend time with my wife Carol and the Doze, and to hang out with my friends. I’m a big movie fanatic, and I like to read for pleasure too (I don’t get to as much as I’d like to anymore, but I do as often as I can).  I’m a sports fan, for the most part. Big hockey fan in particular (Boston Bruins fanatic since I was about age six).  I enjoy vodka now and then (code for a lot), and sex, drugs, and rock and roll as much as the next person. Okay, maybe more. Probably depends on the person, who can say? I also love to cook.


13) What's next for Greg F. Gifune, provided you're at liberty to discuss?

Lots of exciting things coming, more novels and novellas, including my new horror novel A WINTER SLEEP, which will be out next month from Independent Legions Publishing and available everywhere. Six novels from my backlist that had gone out of print recently will be returning from Journalstone, including a 15-year Anniversary Edition of my novel THE BLEEDING SEASON I’m very excited about, which will feature a new Introduction from Ron Malfi and a new Afterword from Eric Shapiro. Also some film and TV things happening I can’t get into in specifics yet but should be exciting, so stay tuned.


In closing, are there any thoughts you'd care to share?

My official website (gregfgifune.com) is no longer mine, and I am no longer in ANY way affiliated with it. The domain expired while the site was down for renovation and some other entity in Japan scooped it up and now uses it as some sort of advertising site, but again, it has nothing to do with me even though they’re using my name. If you want to connect or keep up to date with what’s happening with me, find me on Facebook or Twitter (or both).

And thanks so much for having me, Frank, always a pleasure.

Thanks for talking the time, Greg.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel - by Steven W. Booth & Harry Shannon

5 of  5 Stars     Review copy

Every now and again you need a book like Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel just to clear the air, to show you how much fun reading can be.  No political undertones, no heavy themes, no underlying message.  Just a flat-out good time.

If you don't already know who Penny Miller is, that's OK.  You'll learn everything you need to know about the bad-ass Sheriff of Flat Rock, Nevada in this new novel from Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon.  But, when you're done with Blood Desert you may want to look up the six other books in the Penny Miller series as she does her best to survive the zombie apocalypse.

The newest book in the series takes place before all of those other novels and there's not a zombie in sight, but don't worry, there's plenty of other threats to the peace in this small desert community.  As if, it's not hard enough dealing with her ex, a drunken deputy who happens to be the Mayor's nephew, and a strange ailment affecting the cattle out on the Harrison ranch.  "It seems someone or something drained those cattle of blood."

When the humans begin to succumb to the same conditions as the cattle, things go south quickly.

"For a moment, vertigo set in, and Miller felt simultaneously lost in the vast expanse of the corridor and closed in by the sound or her own heartbeat.  She realized her mind was struggling with uncomfortable truths and cognitive dissonance of a most unusual nature.  The craziest of ideas suddenly seemed sane, and the normal abruptly threatening.  Monsters walked the earth."

Of course, Penny Miller remains the undisputed Queen of Snark.  Many of her best witticisms are too colorful for an Amazon review, but here are a couple of her milder remarks...

"As sure as a teenaged zit on prom night." & "I screwed up bigger than a drunk field goal kicker at the Superbowl."

Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon still have entertaining tales to tell.  Blood Desert was Flat(rock)-out fun.

Welcome back Penny Miller, can't wait to see what your future holds.  Recommended.

Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Genius Book Publishing.



Monday, March 12, 2018

Guest Post: A letter from Penny Miller (The protagonist in the new novel Blood Desert)

To: Frank Michaels Errington

From: Sheriff Penny Miller, Flat Rock NV

Re: BLOOD DESERT

Right off, let me caution you that this memo was written under difficult circumstances. In fact, it may not seem to make a lick of sense at first, mostly because I’m worn out as a goose with a bad case of the shits. I don’t even know where to start, so just gonna come right out and say whatever comes to mind, whether in or out of order.
   
Seems hard to believe now, but my little desert town, and the whole damn flat as a bovine frisbee county it squats in, used to be a calm and sleepy place. A big Saturday night had me putting a drunk in a cell to sleep it off, and maybe warning Ricky Bob Walker not to discharge his rifle within city limits. It was pretty nice around here, to be honest. Back then, downright pretty. Until the poop hit the fan and my life got splattered like bug guts on the windshield.
   
Before I go any further, I need to reveal a very weird thing. I don’t know dick about abstract physics, alternative universes, and all that SciFi stuff, but I suspect that something from way out there recently snuck up behind to nip me on the ass. What I mean by all that, Frank, is that everything just changed overnight around here.
   
And I do mean everything.
   
Stay with me: Time itself has kind of changed. And we ain’t talking about daylight savings. For a bunch of reasons I don’t understand, we have all somehow gone backwards. Like for real, by a couple of years, and that means that all six books you reviewed about that whole zombie thing, well they never happened. Not yet, anyway. In fact, back in this here world, I’ve just split up from Terrill Lee, who I caught banging some air headed bimbo while we were married. Here I’m somewhat new at being the Sheriff of Flat Rock, Nevada, but am already as good at this job as any limp noodled, numbnuts male who’s ever held the title. Way better, in fact. A fact which should come as no surprise. Because if you want something done right, always give it to a woman.
   
The thing is, some odd strangers have come to Flat Rock. Two new ladies who are bringing real money in, which our corrupt Mayor loves. But they are also dragging behind them, kind of like the tail of a kite tied to firecrackers, one hell of a lot of trouble. I've also spotted a pair of teen drug dealers who look to be exploiting this sudden uptick in our local economy. Now, you might think those events won't add up to a big deal, but you’d be wrong as a turd on a salad plate. It’s a slow-motion train wreck from the start and quickly gets a whole lot worse. Because Terrill Lee found some cattle with very unusual holes in them, and a then there's also that dead man out in an alley who kind of proved my point. Which is that things really do suck around here. And that ain’t just a figure of speech tonight. Things are sucking the blood out of people.
     
Hold on a second. I just heard something up on the roof. Might just be the wind or some raccoons. Gotta listen.
     
Never mind. It's gone now.
     
Anyway, that is just an update in case this whole case goes south. The good news is I’m not up against those ravenous, mindless zombies who can reproduce faster than a herd of bunnies chowing down on a garden of Viagra. The bad news is that this time the things that suck around here have turned out to have fangs and piss stuff you could use to scrub away rust.
   
These ass hats are actual vampires. Honest to God. They are batshit crazy and thirsty as a broke Shannon boyo on St. Patrick’s Day.
     
Yeah, I know how all this sounds. I can't believe it either.
     
Hold on to your package for another second. Did you hear that?
     
Shit fire. Something is for sure moving around up on the roof. Like it's looking for a way in. Claws on it, maybe? Not small. More like a bobcat or a cougar than a raccoon. Or maybe this is just one hell of a Plus Size bat. Not what I wanted to be dealing with, but guess it saves me a trip underground.
   
Whoa.
   
Looking out the jailhouse window I just saw a shadow cross the ground below, sort of like the huge thing is just pacing around up there. Is it nervous to try and take me on alone? Or maybe it is waiting for some backup?
   
Bullets won’t work on these assholes, but I’ve got me something rumored to get the job done. And I’m fixing to go take the bastard on.
   
Got to go, my people need me.
   
Stay well, and if folks want to find out what happens next, they will just have to buy the book Blood Desert. Frank, old friend, if I live through this one, I’m gonna be sure to check your page to see what you think of the new novel. At least that is one thing which is guaranteed not to suck.
   
Shhh. There it is again.
   
Now it’s hanging from the rain gutter. Butt ugly son of a bitch.
   
Gotta go. The sun is gone and it’s now full-on dark.

Love,

Penny