March 29, 2013

"Dinin'" by Ty Schwamberger: Not for Weak-Stomached Readers

Dinin'
by Ty Schwamberger
Bad Moon Books

One of the first things I learned about Ty Schwamberger when I stumbled across his blog a few years back was the fact he is a fan of Richard Laymon's work. And I dare say that the influence rings quite strong in this intense novella.

Dawn is on a road trip with her two best friends, making their way to Las Vegas in her brand new car that her daddy bought her, when they run afoul of a good ol' boy in a pickup truck on a lonely dirt road. She suspected trouble when she saw the fella jump into his truck when she and her friends left a roadside diner to follow them, then she knew for sure when her friends let her know they'd pulled a dine-and-dash back at the diner. Things go from bad to worse when the truck runs them off the road, when the fella steps out of the truck with a shotgun. What follows is a relentless and outright gruesome night of terror for Dawn.

I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying her friends are shot fairly early in the story. It's with that first shotgun blast that the tone of the story is firmly established. I mean, after Dawn's two friends get shot up along with her new car, the story really takes a turn after the killer chases her into the night.

Grim and graphic, Dinin' is not for the fainthearted. There's even a scene late in the story that made me a little squeamish. If there's a weak spot in the tale, it comes from really failing to connect with Dawn as the story unfolds. I think it might have been the damsel vibe I got from her early on, but she does take matters into her own hands and turns into a self-saving damsel by the end. There was just something missing from her that had me fully in her corner.

I got a bit of a Wolf Creek or a Wrong Turn (sans mutants) kind of vibe from the story. Bloody, unapologetic violence with little sign of escape. If you dig that kind of stuff, you should check this one out, but if you want something more subtle, you won't find it here.

March 28, 2013

Talking to Figments: a guest post by Chandler Klang Smith, author of "Goldenland Past Dark"

Talking to Figments
by Chandler Klang Smith

When I stayed at my maternal grandma’s house as a child, I sometimes glimpsed movement out of the corner of my eye – the byproduct, in all likelihood, of catching my mirror image in a reflective surface (the glass dome over an antique clock, the windowed door of a curio cabinet). But I was a reader of the Borrowers books, fascinated by Victorian fairies, and delighted by the subterranean antics of the Fraggles telecast to my living room at home. So to my overactive child’s mind, those glimpses suggested Others: another realm of life intersecting with the human everyday, only narrowly escaping detection at every turn. My grandma’s attempt to convince me otherwise only intensified my fascination. “Those are figments,” she would say. Figments. The creatures even had a name.

In my novel Goldenland Past Dark, one of these figments emerges from the shadows. His name is Wags, and like the reflections of myself that I spied or sensed in the high gloss of my grandma’s piano, the looking glass on her closet door, he is a doppelganger of the young man he haunts, but a doppelganger with a difference: coming as he does from an imagined land, his customs are not our own. He is allowed to say and do forbidden things, to urge his double toward isolation, self-destruction, violence. And since he comes from a far off place, he can do so with impunity. Real America has no extradition treaty with the kingdom of dreams.

I set my novel in the world of the circus because that form of performance inherently suggests this kind of doubling. When I put on a clown suit, I am myself, but I am also the clown. I am both the puppet and the puppet master. And I must inhabit both selves fully, with complete control, if I’m to perform well. Yet something strange arises from this situation, growing in the gap between two selves: I begin to surprise myself. I may even frighten myself.

This isn’t only true in performance. It’s an experience that seems to be a universal product of succumbing fully to one’s imagination. But how is it possible? If fear exists in relation to the unknown, then what is a nightmare? How can my mind keep secrets from me – secrets that erupt only when I’m at my most vulnerable, in the dark, relaxed, unconscious? When I talk to myself (as most of us do), who am I talking to? What would happen if this second person, this Other, talked back?


Chandler Klang Smith is a graduate of Bennington College and the Creative Writing MFA Program at Columbia University, where she received a Writing Fellowship. She lives in New York City. Learn more about her at www.chandlerklangsmith.com.

March 27, 2013

My Top 3 Favorite Hauntings: a guest post by Janeira Eldridge, author of "Good Ghost Gone Bad"


My Top 3 Favorite Hauntings

Now, you would think since I wrote a book called Good Ghost Gone Bad that I would believe, without question, in ghosts. Well, I do have my doubts that they truly exist but I still get terribly excited every time I hear a good ghost story. Who’s to say I won’t have my own encounter with the disturbed dead one day? I’ll never say that it’s impossible for ghosts to roam the earth and here are some of my favorite hauntings that keeps the chances of ghosts being real alive!

Alcatraz Hauntings: It’s reasonable to believe that a place with so many horrors and so much death dwelling inside of it would spark some ghostly debate. There are rumors of visitors and inmates experiencing cold spots, apparitions that claim their ex-inmates and other paranormal phenomenons. However, there is one story that caught my eye the most, the story of one particular inmate who spent some time in “The hole” (the prison’s isolation chamber). A prisoner screamed and screamed while he claimed to be attacked by a man with glowing eyes. Other prisoners had previously moaned and screamed about this vicious man with glowing eyes attacking them, but guards stopped taking the claims seriously once they believed the visions were a result of hallucinations triggered from being in isolation too long. This particular prisoner hollered all night while the guards ignored him. When they opened his cell the next morning they found the man dead with a grotesque look of fear on his face and wounds marring his throat.  His autopsy determined that the wounds were not self-inflicted. Whether an angry guard……or an angry ghost was responsible for the inmate’s death is not known.

Amityville Haunting:  Although the murderer Ronald Defaeo claimed that Amityville was a hoax set up to explain why he murdered his parents and siblings, there is still some evidence that the house itself may be haunted. Take for example that the house was built on a Native American burial ground. This is not just any burial ground however; the Native Americans buried there were a part of an asylum for Native Americans with mental issues. Some history experts say that people experienced gruesome suicides and other deaths. Could these spirits lead a young man to slaughter his family? Although Defaeo now claims his accusations of walls oozing blood and water in the house turning black were false, what would drive a young man to commit such a vicious act against his family. Other paranormal specialists have reported feeling entities so evil they passed out. Is this an example worldwide hysteria….or evil spirits getting the last laugh?

The Tower of London: The tower of London is the British version of Alcatraz! The Tower of London is known to have participated in famous executions concerning two of Henry VIII’s wives’: Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Many visitors have reported seeing sightings of the headless Anne and hearing screams from Catherine Howard. Ghosts of shunned royalty and imprisoned soldiers have said to be seen roaming the tower and moaning in afterlife pain. Maybe there is not as much evidence of hauntings here as there have been in other places but with so many traumatic executions taken place there, it sure makes you wonder what kind of voodoo is floating around that place!

So, what are three hauntings that give you the heebie jeebies every time you hear about them?

About Janiera Eldridge: A published author since 2012, Janiera is author of "Soul Sisters", "Dark Expectations" and "Good Ghost, Gone Bad". She loves meeting & connecting with her fans and loves helping fellow indie authors achieve their dreams!

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com, or her blog.

March 26, 2013

Rabid Rewind: Dark Shadows (starring Johnny Depp)

Dark Shadows
starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Johnny Lee Miller
directed by Tim Burton
screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith
based on the TV series by Dan Curtis
Warner Bros. (2012)

Either it's a stroke of genius or of desperation that Johnny Depp saw fit recruit Tim Burton to adapt a 60s-era gothic soap opera to the movie screen. And after watching Dark Shadows recently, I think it might be a bit of both genius and desperation.

Barnabas Collins (Depp) is the dashing heir to a fishing magnate in eighteenth century Maine whose life is quite literally dashed upon the rocks after breaking the heart of a witch (Eva Green). After the witch kills his fiance, curses him to become a vampire, and turns the town against him, she buries him in the woods where he remains until his coffin is discovered nearly two hundred years later. When he returns to the family mansion, he's shocked not only by the drastic cultural shifts that exist in 1970s America, but by the fact the family fortune is gone and the estate is populated by a motley crew of family eccentrics.

Johnny Depp is ... well, at his usual best. It's the supporting cast that manages to chew the scenery, though. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the matriarch of the sinking ship that is the Collins family, with a cool demeanor and fiery devotion to her dysfunctional family. Elizabeth. Chloe Moretz plays the brooding daughter, who along with her younger brother, seems unfazed by the macabre family reunion. Helena Bonham Carter is the family's live-in alcoholic/psychiatrist, with enough emotional baggage of her own for an army of shrinks. And Jonny Lee Miller, the Americanized Sherlock himself, as the absentee father of a young boy who sees ghosts, in a performance that is deliciously sleazy.

Then there's Eva Green. I remember her from Casino Royale, in which she gave a sultry and subdued performance in the James Bond style, so the contrast was striking when her maniacally obsessed performance really got warmed up.

While the performances were a treat to watch, the plot languished. I think it may have been due to this being an adaptation of a soap opera, as there were plenty of moments where the story's momentum practically collapsed for the sake of dramatic pauses and momentary asides. By the midway point I started wondering if the whole project would have been better suited as a mini-series rather than a feature-length film.

In any case, great performances and incredible set design and costumes--it was set in the 70s after all--made up for the weaknesses in story. The movie makes for a good distraction and fun bit of tongue-in-cheek nostalgia, but I think I'll stick with movies like Dazed and Confused if I want a time-warp back to the far-out era.

March 25, 2013

Breathing New Life into Cheating Death: a review of Tom Piccirilli's "What Makes You Die"

What Makes You Die
by Tom Piccirilli
ApexBooks (2013)
162 pages
ISBN-13: 9781937009120

This book came out of nowhere, and the news of its release was nearly as welcome as the news Tom Piccirilli is on the mend. After being diagnosed with brain cancer last year, the guy went to hell and back getting a tumor the size of a tennis ball removed from his skull, then dealing with chemo and all the treatment that entails, and now the ungodly medical bills that are piling up because of the oh-so-wonderful healthcare system down there in the United States. Anyway, Tom is an author with a seemingly innate ability to go to very dark places within his writing, but even knowing that I wasn't quite prepared for What Makes You Die.

Tommy Pic, is a failed screenwriter, waking up in a mental facility somewhere after his umpteenth breakdown, strapped to a bed with his family at his side. It's old hat for everyone at this point. In his late-thirties now, he's seen the inside of a padded room more than once, to the point that there's no great drama from his mother or sister or anyone else beyond some prayers and hung heads.

With no money, no joy, no prospects, and no memory of how he wrote the first act of a new manuscript that showed up in the hands of his agent, Tommy is at his wit's end. The new book is titled "What Makes You Die" and his agent loves what he's written so far, but Tommy can't even be sure he even wrote it. And while visiting his agent across the river in New York City, he meets a young woman working in a shop for Wiccans and the like. He instantly takes a liking to her, but somehow she takes a liking to him, too. There's an empathic quality to her, and she even gives him the sense that she can see the same ghosts haunting him that he does--maybe not the komodo dragon living in his belly.

This book, much like Tom's novella Every Shallow Cut, is equal parts dazzling and depressing. Tommy Pic's sanity seems to be hanging on by a thread. He's already got a scar across his belly where he lost a couple feet of intestine from the Christmas Eve he took a steak knife to his belly in an attempt to cut out that ghost of a komodo dragon living in there. At the start of the book, it feels like we're just sitting around with his family, looking down on him in his madness, waiting for him to finish the job. A collision course with a tragic and all too foreseeable demise. There's a scene of Tommy answering questions from teenagers in a girl's parent's garage that slowly sours and makes you think the guy is going to go off the deep end at any second, and it won't be pretty.

There is a glimmer of hope for Tommy though, and that's what saves the book from being an utterly morbid exercise. It's a wrenching story and until you hit the final page, you're not quite sure if it's all going to go horribly, horribly wrong or if he might find at least one of the answers he's searching for. A really good book that will be a slog for folks looking for lighter fare and a gem for folks who have an idea how deep and dark the rabbit hole goes.

March 22, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Take the Long Way Home" by Brian Keene

Take the Long Way Home
by Brian Keene
Deadite Press (2011)
originally published in 2006
ISBN 1936383589

There are all kinds of kooky ways the world is supposed to end, but for as many end-of-the-world scenarios people cook up it is pretty hard to top sheer ostentatiousness of one of the original tales, that being the Rapture. When you sit back and look at the big picture of that apocalyptic scenario, you have to wonder what kinds of hallucinogens were available two thousand years ago. For that matter, I'm tempted to wonder what Brian Keene was smoking when he wrote this novella.

In actuality, the story requires nothing quite so mind-altering as real life, because despite the incredible otherworldly event that is seeing friends, loved ones, and total strangers all vanish in the blink of an eye as a great trumpet sounds, this world feels very real.

It begins on the interstate as four friends make the long commute home from Maryland to Pennsylvania on the interstate. They hear a blast, sounds awfully like a horn, and then the world descends into confusion and chaos. They get into a car crash, one of them dies, and the other is missing. As they get their wits about them, they see they aren't the only ones to get into a wreck, and many more are missing. Terrorist attack? Alien invasion? Scientific experiment gone awry? Several theories are bandied about and quickly shot down, but the one that keeps creeping back is the Rapture. The End Times have finally arrived and everyone is in for a whole lot of hurt.

For Steve (Jewish) and Charlie (gay), along with a kind stranger named Frank (atheist), it looks like they're not on the guest list for God's private party. With nothing more of a plan than to walk home, they put one foot in front of the other, wandering through a ravaged landscape that has erupted in violence and hate all too quickly. It might be horrific enough being left to fend for yourself on a forsaken world, but what's truly horrific is the other people you're surrounded by.

Plain-spoken and poignant, this is classic Keene, I reckon. No great zombie hordes, no, but the stark portrait of humanity is blazing on each page, right down to the quiet, awful end.

March 21, 2013

5 Novels That Inspired 'Infernal Machines': a guest post/giveaway by Will Millar


Meet Will Millar 
Will Millar was raised in Commack, a quiet and unassuming town close to the northern shore of Long Island. As a kid, his primary passions were horror and hell-raising. As he tended to cultivate the latter to a greater extent than the former, by the time he was 17 years old, the whole town decided they’d had quite enough of his antics, and would he please just take his act on the road, thank you very much. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, where his penchant for fire, explosions and general mayhem were tolerated, if not somewhat approved. At this point, Will also discovered the writers of the Beat Generation and began to write more consistently, submitting his less profane poems to underground ‘zines and belting out the more terrible stuff to unsuspecting audiences at various open mike nights throughout the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the last 15 years, Will has worked as a writer in various mediums, though horror continues to remain his favorite. He sometimes contributes articles to Cracked.com, and his short stories are available in several different anthologies. Infernal Machines is his first novel. At the present, Will lives in Phoenix AZ. He is a father of four, owns two dogs and has a wonderfully understanding girlfriend, all of whom somehow manage to put up with all of his crap.


Infernal Machines Tour Banner

Hey y’all, my name is Will Millar. If you happened to read Infernal Machines and were wondering who was responsible for unleashing it into the world, look no further. Thanks for letting me come on to this site and ramble for a little while. I’ll get you guys back to your regularly scheduled programming in no time at all. I originally wanted to do kind of a top 5 list, but there’s so much incredible stuff out there that I would be doing the Horror world a disservice even trying to quantify what’s what. So instead, I want to simply focus on some great works that directly inspired my story.

#5: Off Season by Jack Ketchum

About halfway through Infernal Machines, there’s an indirect reference to the Sawney Beane clan, which some folks may recognize as the very real band of Scottish cannibals that Ketchum’s seminal masterpiece was based upon. I put the reference in there on purpose, as kind of an “Easter Egg” for hardcore horror fans. Also, while his brand of super-realistic (and unflinchingly graphic) horror is different to my own approach to the genre, Ketchum is one of those people who I’ve not only read, but out-and-out studied. I believe the genius of Jack Ketchum is not so much in his ability to paint completely real, fucking absolutely terrifying pictures of humanity at its worst, but in the way he draws you in to the world he’s describing. You root for his more sympathetic characters, even as you know the best they can usually hope for is a quick death. And while his villains are more, well, fucking villain-y than anything this side of Edward Lee’s City Infernal, they are nonetheless compelling in all of their 3-dimensional, fully realized glory.  

#4: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

“Start at the beginning” is something you hear a lot when it comes to the basic structure of telling a story, but in most cases with a story as large and complex as your average novel, that’s a whole lot easier said than done. Straub, who is out-and-out my favorite writer by far, took this axiom for Ghost Story, and he beat the hell out of it, stole its lunch money, and then kicked it a few more times for good measure. Ghost Story actually starts about 30 pages before the novel’s chronological conclusion and then tells a story through a series of flashbacks, half-remembered fables, and jarring cuts in perspective, piecing together a series of events that stretches across the span of almost a century, with no fewer than 5 protagonists sharing the spotlight. There’s absolutely no reason you should have a clue what’s going on, and yet Straub manages to make the whole thing work.  

#3: Salem’s Lot/Jerusalem’s Lot/One for the Road by Stephen King

While I realize that some folks who are regular readers of my blog are probably rolling their eyes at this point and wishing I would stop talking about Salem’s Lot, all I can say in response is this: Someday I will be dead, and it’s more likely than not that on that day I won’t have anything more to say about the subject. It was the first real horror story that ever captured my interest, and while my earliest exposure to the tale was through Tobe Hooper’s excellent screen adaptation, a few years later I read the novel and it was all I could do to keep my head from exploding from the sheer awesomeness of it all. Not only that, but SL led me to Night Shift & Jerusalem’s Lot, which of course led me to H.P Lovecraft, and you can pretty much take it from there. 30 years later, I still read the book and its related shorts about once a year and find new things to marvel at.  

#2: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

If Salem’s Lot took over the reins of my imagination from any other work of fiction, it was Ray Bradbury’s dark masterpiece. These two books could represent the Yin and Yang of my subconscious mind, with Barlow and Straker occupying the dark end, and Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show taking up the… uh, other dark end, I guess. In all seriousness, I owe a lot of the language and imagery of the Arthur Cardiff character and his Emporium of Majick and Wonder to that traveling circus, and I’d be lying if Stoner and Paulie didn’t bear even the slightest resemblance to Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway.

#1: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

About 7 or 8 years ago I tried (and failed) to write the Great American Vampire Novel. Having grown up with my Salem’s Lot obsession, and logging enough hours watching the Hammer vampire classics to recite at whim long lines of dialogue from Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, or Captain Motherfucking Kronos himself, I figured I had the chops. And so, after 2 and a half years of writing and re-writing, and peer editing and re-rewriting, and everything else that goes into the harrowing process of sculpting a huge mound of bullshit into some semblance of a coherent narrative, I was ready to show the world my work! To say that it sucked would be paying it a complement. I called it Hell’s Deliverance, which makes about as much sense as the story itself – which was kind of a mash-up of bad Lovecraftian pastiches and Breaking Bad fan fiction, minus Walter and Pinkman, with some vampires thrown in almost as an afterthought. If that sounds cool to you, it’s only because I boiled it down to about 40 words, as opposed to the original 350 pages. But I learned a lot about what goes into writing a semi-decent novel by writing the dreaded 1st novel. For my second attempt, I figured I would ditch the vampires and do an homage to Frankenstein instead. Infernal Machines, for better or worse, is what came out of that attempt. I’ve had a lot of fun stopping by here today. Thanks a bunch for having me. And to those of you who have read the book and supported it so far, you have my eternal gratitude. Catch you on the flip side
—Will
 

Infernal Machines

Infernal Machines Book Cover

Paulie and Stoner aren’t bad seeds; they’re just a little too smart for their own good. They stole their first car in kindergarten, and as for the homemade rocket launcher in Stoner’s garage … well, it’s best just not to ask. With 9th grade just around the corner, Paulie and Stoner find themselves on the wrong side of some real bad kids, an older band of white supremacists that go by the name of “Twisted Cross.” When a rumble at a high school keg party turns fatal, it sets off a chain of events that test the limits of Paulie and Stoner’s friendship, and their very sanity. Welcome to Chapel Harbor, a town where everybody buries their secrets deep, and nobody is quite who they seem. A town where the ghost of a serial killer known as The Junkman is rumored to stalk the woods at night, and where an unassuming magic shop and its mysterious proprietor, Arthur Cardiff, may possess the key to an ancient and terrible evil. Packed with hairpin turns and twists that will keep you guessing until the very last page, Infernal Machines is a blood drenched, adrenaline fueled, roller-coaster of a horror story that’s at once a paean to the Pulp Horror classics of the early 80’s and a meditation on the enduring power of friendship.

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March 20, 2013

Wish List Wednesday #133: Ania Ahlborn's "The Neighbors"

WLW is a recurring blog segment in which I highlight a book I have on my wish list. Sometimes it's a new release, sometimes a beloved classic, and sometimes it's a hidden gem.

Neighbors. Aren't they just the worst? Eh, actually I've had the good fortune to live next door to some good eggs over the years. The a-holes tend to live a few doors down. Still, neighbors have never been a source of horror for me. My first college roommates on the other hand, those were the stuff of nightmares.

Ania Ahlborn made a bit of a name for herself with her self-published horror novel, Seed, which I had on my wish list not too long ago. Then she came out with her sophomore effort in the fall, a book that delves into the psychological terror that is The Neighbors.

The whole white-picket fence thing never really appealed to me, possibly due to having to paint a couple of them and the tedium entailed with that. Anyway, this new book involves a young man who meets a couple of charming neighbors after renting a room in the dilapidated home of his childhood friend. But things turn a bit into the weird and wary as he learns more and more about his new friends.

Sounds good to me. How about you? Any nightmare neighbor stories you'd care to share?

March 19, 2013

Everything New Is Old: a guest post by William Vitka, author of "Infected"

Everything New Is Old
By William Vitka

What was the last great monster you saw on film or read in a book? What unforgettable monster did you dream about? Have nightmares about?
Was it a new creature? Or was it a new take on an old concept?

Likely, it was an old concept spun in a new way. The zombies on "The Walking Dead" have been seen thousands of times. The graphic novels grew in popularity because of the artwork and the writing. The show remains popular as hell because of the way the story unfolds – very human drama framed within the apocalypse.
"Twilight," of course, was a different take on the lustful vampire-werewolf hierarchy we've seen rumbling around the sexual undercurrents of lore. The movies/books were and remain popular because young people have notoriously terrible taste. (I kid, I kid.)

Then there's the dirge of exorcism movies ("The Last Exorcism: Part 2" Really? Really?!). The found-footage flicks ("Paranormal Activity," "Cloverfield," "Super 8," et al who've modeled themselves after "The Blair Witch Project"). Jesus Christ, make it stop. As soon as a topic gets mildly popular, it's ripped off and repeated and diluted. I don't think that's a shock to any of you. And since that's sadly the case, how do we find truly new horror fiction?

For me, I found it through John Carpenter's "The Thing" … Which is borderline asinine to say since it's a remake of a novella adaptation ("The Thing From Another World" which is based on "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. – both of which I love.)

But let me explain: When I was growing up in the 80s, old SciFi from the 50s and 60s was my imagination fuel. I read and watched as much as I could. Ray Harryhausen movies. "The Twilight Zone."  Books by Phil Dick and Robert Heinlein. I couldn't get enough. Eventually, I saw "The Thing From Another World." Yeah, on the face of it, it was just a guy-in-a-suit monster movie. But it took place in the snow. I hadn't seen that before. And the music, ooooh, that was scary.

My dad handed me a book that contained Campbell's novella (which I still have). I devoured it. And then I couldn't sleep. Hoo boy. This story wasn't just about a giant bug. Or a spaceship attack. Or colonizing a planet. Or the undead. Or even a monster lurking in the shadows … It was all about a shapeshifting monster lurking inside people. It could change them at a whim. It could turn them into utterly psychotic beasts with a million eyes or a million tentacles or both. One cell was enough to get inside you. And then it took you over. Then you were The Thing. But you could stay hidden and even your family wouldn't know it wasn't you …

The idea blew my twelve-year-old mind.

Then when I was fifteen, I watched the movie and it blew my mind into a million different pieces.

The obvious excitement and tenacity with which John Carpenter and Bill Lancaster and Rob Bottin and Kurt Russell approached this revolutionary, yet simple, idea caused me to look at source material in an entirely different way. "The Thing" changed me on a fundamental level. (If you want to pretend that's a pun, go right on ahead. I won't stop you.)

When I decided to write my own novel, I spent a lot of time thinking about my sources of inspiration. (This was six years ago, though the damn thing only came out this past November.) I love zombies. Romero zombies. So I needed to rewatch "Night Of The Living Dead." And the basis for NOTLD was Richard Matheson's 1954 novel "I Am Legend," so I needed to reread that. And the core of "Legend" is a strikingly awesome idea: Explaining the supernatural with Science.

That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to explain zombies with Science. Or at least try. Because almost all zombie fiction, movie or novel, tends to shrug and blame radiation or a mysterious virus.

This is spoilery, if you care.

I created a monster from two known bugs: Toxoplasma gondii and syphilis. I had them mesh together to form a new, super parasite. Effectively an insane STD. One that infected humans. The first stage was a shambolic Romero-esque kind of zombie. But then, the thing starts to mutate the human form. I reasoned that since this parasite was strong enough to take over a body, it could really take over a body. Change it. Shape it. Turn it into a machine for propagation.

Enter the Stilt-Walker: A human stretched out like a racing hound. Roaming towers of flesh. There's certainly a touch of Campbell's novella there. As well as more than a touch of that Carpenter-Bottin flare for gore. I thought about what else I would want to see.

Robots.

A dystopian future where it was either raining or snowing and sales droids hawked wares at you while you checked for messages on your holographic datapad.

When it was done, and I stood back and looked at what people were saying, I realized: Ye gods, I've written a Pulp novel. An over-the-top little drunken joyride of chaos and monsters. This isn't really new. They've been doing it since the 30s! But I'm perfectly all right with that.

No, it wasn't new. Not in the way I've been talking about in this piece. It was just a new mixture of disparate elements.

So I'll try again. And again. And again.

For me, the quest is always to tell a new story filled with new ideas.

The question is simple: What's next?

Speak up in the comments about what incredible, original Horror and Science Fiction you've found recently.

***

William Vitka is a journalist and author. He's written for CBSNews.com, Stuff Magazine, GameSpy, On Spec Magazine and The Red Penny Papers to name a few. His debut novel, INFECTED, was published by Graveside Tales in late 2012. His anthology of short stories, THE SPACE WHISKEY DEATH CHRONICLES, was published at the crack of 2013 by Curiosity Quills. He lives in New York City.




March 18, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Mucho Mojo" by Joe R. Lansdale

Mucho Mojo (Hap & Leonard #2)
by Joe R. Lansdale
originally published in 1994
ISBN 0892964901

It's been over a year since I read the first Hap & Leonard novel, Savage Season. That's way too long by my measure to go without reading the second.

Mucho Mojo picks up between the two pals a while after their misfortune involving Hap's ex, Trudy, who died in their foolish pursuit of money. Leonard is still sporting a limp from the knee injury he sustained during that whole mess. This time it's Leonard's past that sends the two men into a whole new quagmire, when Leonard's uncle--the man who raised him for many years--dies and leaves him his estate. The estate winds up being a bit of cash, a safe deposit box, and the house Leonard grew up in. The house, much like Leonard's relationship with his estranged uncle, has gone to hell. And so has the neighborhood for that matter.

While Leonard tries to get things squared away with the property, Hap winds up getting cozy with the lawyer Leonard's uncle hired. Nothing like a little romance to take your mind off the dead body you find under the floorboards. Oh yeah, there's a dead body under that house--a boy, no less. And the way things are looking, Leonard's uncle is likely to take the fall. Leonard doesn't believe for a second that his uncle is capable of such things though, so he enlist Hap to help him solve the strange riddle of things his uncle left for him in that safe deposit box, and figure out who killed that boy.

Where Savage Season felt much more caper like in the antics of Hap and Leonard, this novel was definitely more in the vein of a straight-up murder mystery. Throw in the way Lansdale sets the stage with crackling dialogue and the occasional turn of phrase, and it's the kind of mystery you won't be in any hurry to see solved, since you'll have such a great time reading the story. The answer to whodunnit became pretty clear much sooner than I expected, but that wasn't the draw for me anyway. It was the way both Hap and Leonard developed through the course of the story, along with the meticulously vivid fight scenes that Mr. Lansdale seemed so adept at writing.

With this being my third Hap & Leonard book (I read Devil Red, the latest in the series, in 2011), I'm even more of a fan than I was already of this series. Two-Bear Mambo is next on my list. I haven't a clue what it's about and am not too concerned. I just can't wait to read it--and it sure as heck won't take me a year this time to do it.

March 15, 2013

Rabid Reads: "Wool #1" by Hugh Howey

Wool (Wool #1)
by Hugh Howey
Broad Reach (2011)
58 pages
ASIN B005FC52L0

I saw an interesting documentary a few years back that was hosted by Stephen Fry, as he toured the U.S., and one of his stops was a fella who had converted a derelict missile silo into his home. It struck me as extremely odd, but perfect fodder for some kind of story, given the survivalist mentality that went along with the silo owners motivations. Well, I wonder if Hugh Howey saw that documentary, because his dystopian scifi novella takes place in an underground silo that's been converted into a habitat for the survivors of an unknown cataclysm that befell humanity.

The silo has served as home for humans for generations, and Sheriff Holston has enforced the law and order that has held the community together. Above ground is a wasteland, as seen through the monitors, showing a grimy, desiccated wasteland. The cameras require constant cleaning though, to keep that view available to those who can see it below, which is where the condemned come in handy. And Sheriff Holston is the latest to be handed a death sentence, preparing to suit up and step outside the silo, never to return.

Wool works on two levels, as a stand-alone novella depicting a bleak future revealed to be even bleaker, and as the first episode in a series of novellas set in this post-apocalyptic landscape. I have the first five novellas bundled together, which I found on the Kindle Store, but I wanted to take a look at just the first one to see if I'd be compelled to read any further. Sheriff Holston was a conflicted and devastated character, spending his life believing one thing only to have his wife--a woman earlier condemned to leave the silo--shatter his understanding of their world. But, I may be spoiling things to say that the rest of the series doesn't appear to focus on him, instead turning back to the silo and the search for a new sheriff.

The opening chapter is a bit of a slog, taking its time rattling around in Holston's thoughts, but once the stakes are set and the alternating chapters dealing with his wife and her quest for knowledge come to light, the whole story becomes very intriguing and a better appreciation is gained of the universe Howey has created.

If you're into the dystopian stuff, this is worth taking for a test drive, though I'm unsure as to whether to recommend buying the first novella or the bundled five. I got this first one as a free offer on Amazon, then went and bought the bundle, so if you can score a deal like that, go for it.
CymLowell

March 14, 2013

Book Cover and Blurb for S.M. Boyce's "Treason"





 Blurb for S.M. Boyce's TREASON: Ourea has always been a deadly place. The lichgates tying the hidden world to Earth keep its creatures at bay—for now.

Kara Magari ignited a war when she stumbled into Ourea and found the Grimoire: a powerful artifact filled with secrets. To protect the one person she has left, she strikes a deal that goes against everything she believes in. But things don’t go as planned.
Braeden Drakonin can no longer run from who—and what—he is. He has to face the facts. He’s a prince. He’s a murderer. He’s a wanted man. And after a betrayal that leaves him heartbroken, he’s out for blood.

To survive, both Kara and Braeden must become the evil each has grown to hate.


Author Bio: S.M. Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction novelist who also dabbles in contemporary fiction and comedy. Her B.A. in Creative Writing also qualifies her to serve you french fries. She updates her blog a few times each week so that you have something to wake you up in the morning.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter

You can learn more about TREASON by visiting Goodreads or Amazon.

March 12, 2013

Chasing Tale [3/13/13]: Why Do Movie Novelizations Exist?

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the books I recently added to my to-be-read pile. Some are advance review copies, some I bought from one store or another, and others are freebies from promotional offers that caught my eye.

I was browsing the Kindle Store a couple weeks ago and saw there is a novelization of Footloose. For half a second, I thought it was a joke. I mean, should I expect a line of Step Up novels soon? Since when did dance flicks become prime candidates for novelization? If you want to turn a book into a musical, that could work. It did for Wicked that's for sure. But turning Kevin Bacon's spastic dance routines into literature is a bit of a stretch.

Seeing it got me to wondering about novelizations in general. I don't know about you, but I find the concept kind of silly on a couple fronts. For one thing, who watches a movie trailer and thinks, "Wow, that movie looks great. I wonder if there's a novel version I can read instead"? Apparently some people do though, because publishers keep churning these things out. Secondly, there is apparently a novelization of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Think about that for a moment. There's a book based on a movie that was already based on a book!

I actually read a novelization once--in fifth grade. What was it? Adventures in Babysitting. Yeah, remember that Elizabeth Shue classic? Somebody wrote a novel version of that and a copy found its way onto the wheeled bookshelf in my backwoods elementary school. Wow, I thought. A cool-looking movie (ah, the cultural tastes of a 10-year-old) right there in book form. I'd never seen a book based on a movie before. Granted, a boy from the sticks, whose knowledge of books branched basically from Doctor Seuss to The Hardy Boys at the time, can be easily impressed by such things. Looking back, I only read it because I wanted to see the movie, but was too young and too poor to go to the movie theater to watch it. So, aside from stocking the shelves of rural elementary schools, what's the purpose of novelizing movies?

I still haven't figured that out yet. So, if you've got an answer for me, feel free to leave a comment. In the mean time, here are the latest books added to my to-be-read, with nary a novelization to be seen, I might add.

CaliforniabyRay Banks - There's a little town in Scotland called California--who knew?--but I doubt it has many palm trees. It might still be the perfect backdrop for this crime novella published by Blasted Heath.

Hot Wire by Gary Carson - I found another interesting crime novel from Blasted Heath about a teen girl turned car thief. The book's plot description sounded absolutely bonkers, and it only cost a dollar, so I figured I'd roll the dice on it.

The Cipher by Kathe Koja - This is Koja's debut novel, which won a Stoker Award at the time and it was released a few months ago as an e-book. I've only read her short fiction so far, so I thought this would be a good place to start with trying out a full-length novel.

Quarantined by Joe McKinney - I remember the SARS outbreak in Toronto years back and how everyone outside the city lost their minds about it spreading. Well, Joe has a flu pandemic in San Antonio in this novel that ought to capture some of the paranoia and dread of those crazy outbreak days.

Soultaker by Bryan Smith - More and more horror novels are being rescued from the quagmire that was Dorchester and finding new homes with other publishers. One of the latest is this one through Bryan's own Bitter Ale Press.

The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff - I mentioned this novel back in WLW#38, a parapsychology thriller, which sounds quite promising. Alexandra published it on the Kindle Store, which is something I would have assumed St. Martin's Press would've done back when it was first published. Ah well, I've got it now.

Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark - Around my neck of the woods, Westlake/Stark novels are a rare find, so seeing this novel online for less than a buck was a welcome treat. I've only read Westlake's TheAx so far, to be honest, but it was such a magnificent piece of work, I'm sure I'm gonna enjoy the rest of his stories.

Shock Totem #6 edited by K. Allen Wood - The sixth issue of ST hit the Kindle Store a couple weeks ago, so I scooped it up. My favorite magazine for horror short stories, easily.

The Dame by Dave Zeltserman - This is the second novella in Zeltserman's Hunted series. I have the first one already, but when I saw this on sale for less than $2, I had to get it.



Review Copies:

Age of Certainty edited by William Friedman - An anthology snuck its way onto my Kindle, this one offering ten authors' takes on the question "what if God was real?"

What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli - Apex Books has published a new short novel by one of the best writers going today. And when you read the setup for this story and realize the protagonist is named Tommy Pic, you're gonna want to read this as soon as you can.

Goldenland Past Dark by Chandler KlangSmith - It's hard to decide which name I like more, that of the book or the author. Either way, an ARC of this new release from Chizine Publications found its way to my inbox.

The Pale Man by Nate Southard - This is the fifth installment in the Sam Truman series from Abattoir Press, which means I need to get around to reading the second, third, and fourth installments, toot sweet.

Infected and The Space Whiskey Death Chronicles by William Vitka - This novel and short story collection, respectively, arrived in my inbox at the end of February. It looks like Vitka has already earned himself some blurbs from notable authors, so I'll have to find room on my to-be-read pile for these books.

Whitstable by Stephen Volk -  A new novella is on its way from Spectral Press. The cover is gorgeous and it looks like it's a tribute of sorts to legendary actor, Peter Cushing. No sure who that is? Where have you been? This should be really intriguing.