Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: Husk - by Rachael Autumn Seering

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review: Land of Bones - by Glenn Rolfe

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

If you read Glenn's guest post on my blog yesterday, you are likely already aware that Land of Bones is a collection which deals primarily with loss.

And it all begins with a flash fiction piece set in a graveyard,.  The title story, Land of Bones.

Ghost of Spears Corner - Wow!  This coming of age short will definitely reach out and grab you.

"We weren’t perfect, but I’d say we managed to be relatively normal. All that changed, at least for me, the last week of summer vacation in ’57."

Simon - Little Ally has a fascination with worms, especially Simon.

"Her worm, as she liked to lovingly think of him, was not like the worms in Katy's, or Michael's yards."

Not Kansas Anymore - Another killer story about a series of deaths in Kansas, Maine.

"On the news, they were telling us we had a murderer in our town.  In the halls between classes, we were talking about vampires.  We were all wrong."

Fire - Thus far, I have thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.  How would you deal with a world suddenly aflame?

Welcome to Paradise - This story may be short on words, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in violence.

"She loved damage.  She loved scars.  She loved anything beautiful and broken.  The Lucky Lounge Motel served as the feeding ground for her biggest passion...murder."

Wish - All I can say about this story is one really needs to be careful what they wish for.

Avenging Kitten - Love the title.  Another story of loss and in this case revenge.  This is one of those tales where I couldn't wait to see where it would go.

Charley Sings the World Away - A heartbreaking story of the end times.

The Fixer - A tale of horrible loss. A story that moved me to tears and then made me angry.  Well done.

The Rooster - "That Alice in Chains record is one we both loved."

Too Much of a Dead Thing - A novella-length story with a zombie-like event where the survivors are far worse than the monsters.

Little Bunny - Brenner's Woods were off limits. A haunted place with snakes, spiders, and ghosts, but that didn't stop Tommy Schafer from venturing in.

"While he came back each and every time, poor Tommy never came out quite the same."

Death Lights (A Lee Buhl Story) - If you read The Haunted Halls, you are already familiar with Glenn's demon-fighting urban shaman.

"Years after his showdown at the Burton Inn, Lee is going back to work and finds himself at an old farmhouse.  What he finds might be more than he is ready for."

A singular voice in speculative fiction, Rolfe is able to tell complete stories in his shorts, something some novelists fail to accomplish in 300 pages.  Some of these tales can be difficult to read, particularly if you've experienced a similar loss.  But, overall I found Land of Bones to be a worthwhile collection.

Recommended.

Land of Bones is currently available 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 - "A vital part of this generation." - Brian Keene, author of The Complex and The Rising.  Glenn Rolfe is an author/singer/songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Ronald Malfi, Jack Ketchum, and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.  Glenn is the author of Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Abram's Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out of Range, Slush. and Land of Bones.  He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe - Tracks: The Making of Land of Bones

Tracks: The Making of Land of Bones

I put out my first short story collection in October of 2014. That was a book called, SLUSH. Within six months, I wanted to do it again. I set a date, threw out a tentative title (The World Comes Down), and started piecing stories together that I was excited about. I can’t recall all the dates I threw out to my readers and followers, but I remember February of 2016 was one of them, maybe the first.

What happened?

Well, for one thing, I started being published by Samhain Publishing. I wrote three novellas and two novels for them (one that never came out due to their closing up shop). Like most, I kept on writing and writing and writing. Another novella, another novel (one for Sinister Grin Press, one self-published), until I turned my eye back to the piles of short stories I was gathering.

Last summer, I finally decided on a new set of stories and ended up with a new title for the collection, Land of Bones. Yeah, that’s a pretty cool title. I started the work of rifling through had 14 “tracks” that I thought would do the trick and went to work touching them up and sending them to my editor.

Somewhere along the line, I decided 14 was the right number of tracks. I also knew that I wanted to include a new novella. I had two that were in the works to choose from, Bring Me to Life and Too Much of a Dead Thing. I chose the latter due to the characters. I had a bunch of stories I knew I wanted to be included, “Death Lights” (which I had to get permission to use-thanks Grinning Skull Press and Northern Frights!), “The Rooster”, “Welcome to Paradise”, “Wish”, “The Fixer” (which I had written at one point for Michael Baily), “The Land of Bones”, “Simon” and “Charley Sings the World Away”. A lot of those were shorter pieces which is part of the reason I wanted a novella included.

I also planned on putting a number of alien horror stories in here, but once my editor went through the few batches of stories, she pointed out the theme. That of loss. While the alien ones touched on that theme, I had already been there and done that with my short collection Out of Range. I needed to dig up some more…bones (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I went deep. I went to old back up files from a laptop I had in 2014-2015. I picked out the ones I remember liking, “Fire”, and another alien one, “Hollowed”, and I also found an unfinished one that I remember liking a lot, “Ghosts of Spears Corner.” For me, this one really stuck out. I remember loving it while I was working on it, but pushing it aside when I didn’t meet the deadline for the submission call it was intended for. I was more than happy to rediscover my love for this one, specifically the tone and the voice of the story. Every author has a voice, but sometimes you discover another style or tone you can pull off. Like James Hetfield discovering he could sing “, Nothing Else Matters”, sure there was “Welcome Home” and “Fade to Black” before that, but “Nothing Else Matters” was a next-level, emotionally-packed delivery. I felt like I had another range I could sing in, if you will.

And that brings us to the one that was in and out and in and out like a pervert and his sexbot, “Avenging Kitten.” I loved it, another odd style, another odd character and tale, but was it good? I don’t subscribe to the “different is good” saying when it comes to stories. I prefer “good is good”. This story of a man and his cat, and an owl and some environmental dudes….it just wanted to be included so badly.

In the end, I decided on ten that had to be in and then asked my editor to help me select the final four spots. If you pick up a copy of Land of Bones and find yourself excited by “Fire”,
“Avenging Kitten”, “The Rooster” (she asked me to try re-writing that piece, which I did, and it turned out so much better), and “Little Bunny”, send a thanks her way.

We’ve got the tracks, but anybody who has been in a band and recorded a record knows that the sequencing, the order of the songs is a part of telling the full story and telling it in a way that keeps you invested and wanting to go on.

My editor offered up another great Foreword, and I knew “The Land of Bones” had to kick off the album, right? It was originally going to be a long story about ghosts in the graveyard, but by the time I had those first few paragraphs, I felt it was perfect as is. Sort of “In the Beginning” for those of you familiar with Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil album. Obviously, the next track had to punch you in the face. I felt “Ghosts of Spears Corner” fit the bill. Follow it up with a short piece (“Simon”), then another bigger piece that I loved, “Not Kansas Anymore”, a vampire tale that made me think of Ronald Malfi’s fantastic novel, The Narrows, only much, much shorter. “Fire” offers up a quick breather ala “God Bless the Children of the Beast” 9another Shout reference) before the triple threat of “Welcome to Paradise”, “Wish”, and “Avenging Kitten”. Three very different tales before “Charley Sings the World Away” brings the calm.

The last five tracks have no intentions of letting you up for air or letting you go.

“The Fixer” starts with a moment of pain before taking you on a ride you know isn’t what it seems. I was kind enough to throw the most emotional piece I’ve ever written next. “The Rooster” chronicles the loss of my big brother to the monster we call cancer. I cried re-writing this one. That is followed by a story that is a bit more fun, but hopefully, just as gripping, the novella, Too Much of a Dead Thing. A deadly outbreak is causing death and panic; the three characters in here made it all feel real and relevant to me. Hope it does the same for you. “Little Bunny” is a suicidal trip through wonderland that really hit home with some friends. And we close out with my favorite in the bunch, “Death Lights”. While not as grandiose as Springsteen’s “Jungleland” (the best album closer of all-time), “Death Lights” features the return of one of my favorite characters, Lee Buhl, the demon-fighting, urban shaman from my novel, The Haunted Halls. While closing the door to Land of Bones, “Death Lights” also opens things up for another adventure with our friend, Lee.

Jason Lynch provided another amazing cover, channeling the Goonies, making the package complete.
I tried to get to this book so much sooner than I should have, but everything has its own time. I hope you’ll enjoy your time spent with me, these stories, these sorrows, here in the Land of Bones.

From the author's bio - "A vital part of this generation." - Brian Keene, author of The Complex and The Rising.

Glenn Rolfe is an author/singer/songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied
Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Ronald Malfi, Jack Ketchum, and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Abram's Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out of Range, Slush. and Land of Bones.

He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: It Sustains - by Mark Morris

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Pete Kahle at Bloodshot Books is a personal hero of mine.  He has an eye for finding books which have only appeared as limited edition releases in the small press and getting the authors to bring their work to a wider audience.

This time around Pete was able to get Mark Morris to allow his company to publish It Sustains which was originally released by Earthling Publications five years ago.  Don't get me wrong, I love limited editions, I'm a collector myself, but once the books are sold out it's important to get these works to the masses.

In many ways It Sustains is a story about loss.  In Adam's case, it's about the loss of his mother.

Less than to hours into the New Year, not long after she had kissed me goodnight and told me that this would be our best year ever, Mum was dead.

The writing is strong and powerful.  Genuine encounters with real people.  Characters with a lot of texture.  Morris is able to convey what a particular character is feeling with a few carefully chosen words.

I really enjoyed this read, but when I was finished, I had no idea what just happened.  But, that's OK.  It Sustains was not so much about what happens in the end as it was about the journey.  Overall, it was a very satisfying read and one I would certainly recommend.

It Sustains has been re-released in both paperback and Kindle formats by Bloodshot Books.  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 - Mark Morris has written over twenty-five novels, among which are Toady, Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the popular Doctor Who series. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror - by Willie Meikle

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I love everything about this wonderful collection from Willie Meikle.  Take the concept of Willie's Carnacki collections and replace the dinner guests with literary greats of the Victorian era, each sharing a ghost story, and you have the premise for this new work from William Meikle.

Don't get confused, these are not newly discovered works by these authors.  All fourteen stories are written by Meikle writing as these legendary authors.

Wee Davie Makes a Friend by Robert Lewis Stevenson - A wonderfully entertaining story to start the collection.  Tragic in many ways, but great none the less.

The High Bungalow by Rudyard Kipling - Another cool tale.  This one about a haunted Masonic lodge.

The Immortal Memory by Leo Tolstoy - When Empress Yekaterina Alexeyevna calls Captain John Marsh to an audience at court and commands him to find a Scotsman who is able to recite the works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns in Russian and present him at a party that very night.  The events that follow are decidedly unexpected.

In the House of the Dead by Bram Stoker - Reminiscent of one of Meikle's Carnacki stories.  If you lost the love of your life, to what lengths would you go to be with her again.

Once a Jackass by Mark Twain - I've long been a fan of Mark Twain and here Meikle has really captured the essence of a Mark Twain tale.  Set upon the majestic Mississippi River, this is one of my favorite stories in the collection.

Farside by Herbert George Wells - This entry could have easily been in one of the author's Carnacki collections.  The story of a man named Hoskin's who has invited a number of friends to dinner to display his latest invention which has a curious side effect.

To the Manor Born by Margaret Oliphant - It was hard to grow up in a small town in Scotland and not hear at least one, if not a handful, of tales of kin who came back, of lost loves pining in the afterlife, of fishermen coming home for one last kiss. Her childhood had been full of such tales, most of them more capable of frightening her than this sad, disembodied, song.

The Angry Ghost by Oscar Wilde - An absolutely delightful story with a cute kicker.

The Black Ziggurat by Henry Rider Haggard - Another impressive and imaginable tale.  This one set in Kenya.

Born of Ether by Helena P. Blavatsky - An odd yet enjoyable ghostly tale from Meikle's telling of a story in the style of an author I am totally unfamiliar with.

The Scrimshaw Set by Henry James - So cool.  An exquisitely told tale of a haunted chess set.  One of my favorite stories in a book full of such work.

At the Molenzki Junction by Anton Checkov - A Winter quest for vodka encounters both wolves and a ghostly presence.

To the Moon and Beyond by Jules Verne - A wonderful opening line..."To the Moon and Beyond Jules Verne Ever since man first looked up at the night sky, he has wondered about the moon, that great white lady who circles us constantly, like a predator circling its prey, merely waiting for a weakness so that it may pounce."  Once again Meikle manages to capture the style and feel of the author he writes as in this standout tale.

The Curious Affair On the Embankment by Arthur Conan Doyle - Surprisingly this is NOT a Sherlock Holmes story, although it takes place in that same world.  Here Scotland Yard's Detective Lestrade solves a mystery involving the disappearance of a number of successful young women.

There are a number of solid reasons to add The Ghost Club to your reading list.  For example, you love a good ghost story, or maybe you've read and enjoyed Meikle's Carnacki tales, or perhaps you're a fan of Victorian terror, or maybe you just enjoy a good read.  Whatever your reason, happy reading.

The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror is currently available in both Kindle and paperback formats from Crystal Lake 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 - Willie Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with over twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.  Willie currently lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles, and icebergs for company and when he's not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar and dreams of fortune and glory.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Down There & Others- by Keith Minnion

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Keith Minnion is known mostly for his outstanding work as an illustrator, but if you've never read his fiction, you are doing yourself a disservice.  His novel, The Boneyard and his first collection of short stories, It's For You, are among my favorites over the last decade.  Now he is back with his second collection.

From the Amazon description of Down There & Others... 

"Sixteen stories, over half published here for the first time, spanning the same range of genres (horror, SF, dark suspense) as Keith's previous collection It's For You, with fourteen full-page interior illustrations drawn by the author, and an introduction by author Tony Tremblay.  Also included is the first act of Keith's upcoming new supernatural mystery novel Dog Star."

The Blue Cat - Anne Foyle loves porcelain figurines, but the new cat she just brought home seems to have a mean streak.  Fun and clever.  A nice way to open the collection.

On The Hooks - Mal, an aging hunter, who in his world is also the hunted.  One of those stories which leave the reader wanting more.  "Cat meat was no-one's first choice, but flesh was flesh, food was food."

So Many Hats - The first of a few flash fiction pieces.  A deadly tale in just a few words.

Under The Wing - Dek's parents are off to explore the vast reaches of space and Dek is sad about being left behind.

Old Bones - Wow!  A dinosaur gig, new technology, a dog, and a jackrabbit, all combine to make a wonderfully imaginative story that was over way too soon, even though it was the longest story, so far.  Definitely one of my favorites.

A Trail of Footprints - Young Andrew is late coming home and the truth of the matter is a bit of a mystery.  "The boy's footprints had stopped.  Right there before him, in mid-stride, in the middle of the field. Just stopped. "

Paterfamilias - A weird tale of a man and his estranged wife.

Runners, Running - Sue is about done with her inattentive boyfriend.

Close The Door - Author's note: This is a coda of sorts.  The chapter after the final chapter of my novel The Boneyard, which was published in 2011.  Close the Door takes place a few decades after the end of that book.

I'm a big fan of Minnion's dialog.  It's never forced, always the way people really talk.  "'All the old places around here are named after their former owners.'  Becky chuckled.  'Then I guess you should call our house the "Nobody Important Ever Lived Here House"'''

What Does It Feel Like When I Do This? B - A story about first times.

The Holes  - Thirty years is a long time, but some things you never forget.

Little Sister - This tale was first published in a college literary journal in the early seventies and was an homage of sorts to Ray Bradbury's "Mexico" stories.

Ghosts - One of my favorite tales in this collection just happens to be Keith's very first professional sale.  I found this to be a rather cool notion.  "They have succeeded in documenting certain kinds of life—specific types of intelligently controlled energies—that persist after physical, material life ends."

Moons For My Pillow, Stars For My Bed - A wonderfully charming story that just happens to be the complete manuscript for a children's picture book and just needs the picture part.

The Wampyr - More flash fiction.

Down There - The title story, and a quick foray into Lovecraftian horror.  Cyclopean mountains and stygian darkness.  Oh yeah.

Dog Star - Keith Minnion completes his second collection with part of a work in progress.  A story that brought back the best kind of memories from those college years.  So long ago for some of us.

Although I enjoyed Keith's initial collection, It's For You, more.  I'd say Down There & Others is certainly time well spent. When you read this one, take your time and enjoy the prose.

Recommended.

Down There & Others is available in both paperback from Amazon.com and digitally in a wide variety of formats from Crossroads Press.

From the author's bio - Keith Minnion sold his first short story to Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine in 1979. (Its included in this collection).  He has sold over two-dozen stories, two novelettes, an art book of his best-published illustrations, and one novel since.  Keith has illustrated professionally since the early 1990s for such writers as William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Gene Wolfe, and Neil Gaiman, and has also done extensive graphic design work for the Department of Defense.  He is a former schoolteacher, DOD project and program manager, and an officer in the U.S. Navy.  He currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, pursuing oil and watercolor painting, and fiction writing.




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: Weekend Getaway - by Tom Deady

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Weekend Getaway is the new novella by the author of  Haven, the 2016 Bram Stoker Winner for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.  This new work is decidedly different in tone from his debut work, a lovely coming of age story.  Weekend Getaway has more in common with some of Jack Ketchum's more graphic works than his own novel.  And it's every bit as good.

In the words from the introduction by Josh Malerman "Weekend Getaway is as much a gulp of Jolt ® Cola as it is a quick snap of a rubber band on the wrist. It’s smart, small, and (undoubtedly) effective."

At its purest, Weekend Getaway is the story of how John Baxter lost his finger.  After the loss of their child, John and his wife of off for a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods, a place John found and booked online.  Needless to say, things did not turn out as planned.

There are plenty of unexpected twists to keep the reader guessing from start to finish, making Weekend Getaway one of the best novellas I've read in 2017.

Recommended, for sure.

Weekend Getaway is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Grinning Skull 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.

From the author's bio - Tom Deady is the author of Haven, winner of the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His second novel, Eternal Darkness, was released in early 2017, and his writing journey has just begun. He has a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing from SNHU. Tom is a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, where he is hard at work on his next novel.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays - by Kit Power

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Nearly two years ago, to the day, I read and reviewed Godbomb! by Kit Power.  It was one of the most amazing books I read in 2015. Now Kit has returned with a collection of short stories and essays which are hard to describe, but I'm willing to give it my best shot here.

A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays covers a lot of ground and is loosely woven together with a story set in a future where most of human history has been forgotten or purposely covered up and a mid-level government employee is doing his best to uncover the truth through a series of stories uncovered in a hidden mainframe.

Truthfully, I have no idea what I've just read, I just know that I  thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It's true that some of the stories were better than others, but the overall effect was a win.

Tem├╝jin - Family, half-brothers, and revenge. "Loyalty comes first.  All else is dust."

The Chicken and the Three Gods - Original and intriguing story of a henhouse and their nemesis.  Told from the third person POV of the hens. 

Conference - An actual alien invasion taking place at a con.  Who would notice?

Valentine's Day - A subtle tale of the massacre. 

Wide Load - I felt real pain reading this story.  ...in Beccy's spell book, a single-word incantation was circled in black ink, with a small neat tick next to it.  Goldbricker."

Richard Madeley Is a Fucktard and We're All Going to Hell - "There are times when my rage cannot be adequately expressed in 140 characters."

Reverse Engineering - Bruce and June want to be parents.  In the future, it's not as easy as you might think.  A thought-provoking tale with a bit of a twist.

The Film That Made Me: Robocop - I enjoyed Kit's essay on his love of Robocop so much I actually rented and watched it for the first time in thirty years.

Cold Shock - A great story.  One of the best I've read this year.  A killer opening line, too.  "It takes twenty minutes for a submerged car to fill with water.  Seth doesn't even wake up for the first four."

My Brief Career as an Eleven Year Old Slave Trader - A primary school student's assignment to provide an account of events from the point of view of a slave trader.  A very interesting exercise.

Zombie Dad - Kit excels at opening lines.  "My dad's got a pretty good left jab, especially for a guy who's been dead for two years."

Keep It Up Son, Take a Look at what You Could Have Won - A favorite band goes in a new direction. Wow.

Feed the World - I'm thinking this story may have been inspired Do They Know It's Christmas by BandAid, the 1984 recording to raise funds to help the starving children in Ethiopia. "Where the only flowing water is the bitter sting of tears."

Like a Charm - A rookie cop purchases a bullet at a gun show which turns out to be a good luck charm.

Ted - Jason just loves the ragged old teddy.  The two are inseparable despite his mother's attempts to tear them apart.   Toy bears freak me out and Ted is no exception.

Enemies - Without saying as much, this wonderful short is likely a conversation with Charon the ferryman charged with transporting souls of the newly dead across the river Styx into the Underworld.

The Hand - I've played a lot of Texas-Hold-'Em over the years and Kit has managed to capture the adrenaline rush of high stakes poker in this amazing short.

Baptism - The bathing of a child turns into a horrible nightmare.

Time Out of Mind - What would you do if time travel was a thing?

The Final Setting of the Sun - About a three trillion gigaton fusion bomb called Larry.

The Bar at the Edge of the Desert - "But here’s the good bit. When you get to the end, you go to a bar, and they give you a drink. And you drink down the distilled essence of your life experiences, and you savour it, and it becomes a part of you. Then you leave the bar, and outside is a desert, and you cross the desert, and on the other side is another life, another set of experiences and lessons and stories and love and heartache. It never ends. That’s the good news.’"

Reading Kit Power never disappoints, if for no other reason than his work is far from ordinary.  Strongly recommended.

A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays is self-published and available now for your 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.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Bloodstained Wonderland - by Christopher Golden & James A. Moore

5 of 5 Stars

Several years ago, I got wind of a Limited Edition release from Earthing Publications, called Bloodstained Oz.  I've long been a fan of all things related to The Wizard of Oz and immediately set out on a quest to read this novella.  Since the work was out of print I had to look on the secondary market and finally found a copy for $100 and plunked down the cash and got to read what would become one of my favorite novellas in the last ten years.

That same Limited Edition signed hardcover now goes for over $200, but if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it for no additional charge or buy the e-book for $2.99.

It took a long time, six years to be exact, but Golden and Moore finally got around to writing the sequel called Bloodstained Wonderland, and I immediately bought one of the 500 Signed Harcovers available from Earthling Publications and as of the writing of this review there are still some copies available through the publisher.

It's 1940 and when the story begins we meet Gayle Franklin and her friend Elisa.  The setting is London during what would come to me know as "The Blitz."

Th authors deftly tie what happens in this story to the events in Bloodstained Oz.  The tale is both wondrous and magical, yet frightening.  Christopher Golden and James A. Moore have taken another of our childhood memories and turned it into a bloody reign of terror orchestrated by the Wizard of Oz.  

"She looked toward the shape of demons, each clothed in forms almost familiar, dressed in nightmares made flesh.  A walrus galumphed into the room wearing a vest and a cravat.  It sported a derby on its wrinkled brow and the great tusks jutting from the mouth were as bloodied as the unicorn's horn.  Beyond that blubbery mass a dormouse pranced in, dressed in tattered finery.  The oddly delicate paws held the stretched face of a woman. just the face which had been peeled from the skull."

Bloodstained Oz is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and is devilishly violent.

"Where it touched the crown of his head, little rivulets of scarlet had trickled down to streak his face and mat his hair.  Around the inner rim of the hat were tiny claws or fangs that had punctured his forehead and scalp.  Gayle stared, somehow even more hollow than before.  The madness of these animals, of the flying cards, of all the rest had been nightmare enough, but this tophat was alive and it had tasted this man's blood."

Yes, Alice is in the story, but she's not the sweet, naive little girl from the Lewis Carroll story we all remember.  All of your favorite characters make an appearance, but all through the warped minds of Golden and Moore.

I loved having these childhood memories ripped apart and reimaged and I think you'll like it, too.  Go read the Kindle version of Bloodstained Oz first and then pick up one of the remaining Limited Edition copies of Bloodstained Wonderland and then prepare for Bloodstained Neverland.  I just hope we don't have to wait six years this time.

About the authors...

Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Ararat, Snowblind, Tin Men, and many many more.  Golden co-created (with Mike Mignola) two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective.  Golden is also co-host of the podcasts Three Guys with Beards and Defenders Dialogue, and the founder of the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.

James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.