June 30, 2014

Hair of the Dog(ged) Detective: a review of Paul D. Brazill's "Roman Dalton: Werewolf P.I."

Roman Dalton: Werewolf P.I.
by Paul D. Brazill
Blackwitch Press (2013)
69 pages
ASIN B00EFE6SDK

With this collection of six short stories involving a werewolf private-eye, I find myself wishing there was a Saturday morning cartoon adaptation for it. Granted, the subject matter might wind up psychologically scarring little children, but I don't have children so that's not my problem.

Roman Dalton is the kind of world-weary gumshoe you might find familiar if you read a lot of hard-boiled fiction, but the werewolf aspect sends him into that realm of urban fantasy that I have grown to love most. It's gritty, grimy, and gratifying.

Individually, each story might feel like more of a teaser than anything. They are each as quick as a hiccup, but the economy of words shows of Brazill's ability to not muddy up a story with heavy description and introspection. As a collection, each story bleeds into the next, with a cavalcade of some of the most weirdly suited characters you're likely to find in the genre. If the lycanthropic detective isn't a big tipoff, how about the zombie muscle, voodoo kingpins, or even femme fatale witches.

I want more of Roman Dalton and my knock on this book is that it's just so brief. There are more Roman Dalton stories out there on the Kindle Store though, penned by an assortment of writers using Brazill's brainchild, so I have those to look forward to, but I could really go for a novel-length story. Maybe in time, but for now fans of urban fantasy noir should check out these stories to see if they leave you hungry for more.

June 27, 2014

The Stuff That Makes Us: a guest post by Hunter Shea, author of "The Montauk Monster"

Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity, which are all published by Samhain Horror. The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster is published by Kensington/Pinnacle.
He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls. His next book from Samhain Horror, titled HellHole, is set to come out in August 2014 and is his first western horror.
His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.
He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com, on Twitter@HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13channel on YouTube.

The Stuff That Makes Us
by Hunter Shea


Like most people, I accumulate stuff. The longer I live, the more stuff that surrounds me, sometimes penning me into corners I can’t escape from without knocking half a dozen things to the floor.

People like stuff. The definition of stuff depends on the person. For some, that stuff could be vintage Smurfs figures, for others, anything with a frog or cow on it, and for some, Christmas paraphernalia that’s on display alllll year long. Ho ho ho. Ugh.

What’s my stuff?

Being a horror writer who often refers to himself as a Monster Man, you can safely bet that it’s all horror related. And for this special moment, I’m going to let you in on the stuff that surrounds me while I write, devising devious deaths to my characters night in and night out.

Right now, I have a ton of my books everywhere because I’m preparing to go to the Scares that Cares con in Virginia at the end of the month. Stacks of The Montauk Monster, Hell Hole, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows and Evil Eternal are crammed into shelves and leaning precariously in un-cemented towers. Right now, they’re covering my research and inspiration books on monsters, ghosts, myths and cryptids.

Now for the real stuff. I have a zombie Seahawks fan staring at me, as well as a zombie bank (empty, of course) from The Walking Dead, and a gargoyle atop a sarcophagus (where I keep my lighter and Swiss Army knife). Sitting with his legs crossed next to the gargoyle is a Mummy action figure (a replica of Mego figures I had in the 1970s). Somewhere along the way, the Mummy lost his hand, but not his critical eye as he scrutinizes my work.

Above them is a shelf that has a Gort robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, an in-the-box Bigfoot from the Six Million Dollar Man, plastic skull where I keep my baseball caps and mini Creature from the Black Lagoon. The most precious, and disturbing thing on that shelf is a severed dolls head with bizarre face paint and a Mohawk. My kids bought it for me at a horror con a few years ago. Yes, I’m saving up for therapy. Just recently, I brought back an actual bobcat skull for one of my daughters. Now that’s love.

Oh, I have another decorated skull brought to me from Mexico by a friend, a handmade Frankenstein, Robbie the Robot bobble head and a palm sized gargoyle that was my first ‘horror’ purchase at a Boston shop in the early 90s. I think I got it on Boylston Street. Hard to remember. We drank a lot on that trip.

On my walls are signed photographs of Elvira, Julie Adams (the best looking woman ever on film in The Creature from the Black Lagoon) and Meg Foster. Meg and I had a wonderful bonding moment one day that I’ll never forget. What a nice woman. I gave her a copy of one of my books that day to read on the plane ride home. I wonder if it’s now part of her stuff.

There’s original artwork from folks local and not so local depicting all kinds of craziness. Love my Vampirella calendar from 2012, signed by famed artist Ken Kelly. Oh, and a signed page of The Crow by J. O’Barr. I almost tattooed the Crow on my arm. Not sure why I didn’t go through with it. It’s never too late!

And that’s just some of my stuff. When I see my stuff, I know I’m home. My stuff makes me want to write, in the hopes that someone will create new stuff from my books. Even if I’m writing someplace else, I picture all of my stuff around me, inspiring me, bringing me comfort. Can’t wait to see what new stuff I find to add to the collection.


"Shea combines ancient evil, old school horror, and modern style." --Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author
It Kills. . .
On a hot summer night in Montauk, the bodies of two local bar patrons are discovered in the dunes, torn to shreds, their identities unrecognizable. . .
It Breeds. . .
In another part of town, a woman's backyard is invaded by four terrifying creatures that defy any kind of description. What's clear is that they're hostile--and they're ravenous. . .
It Spreads. . .
With every sunset the terror rises again, infecting residents with a virus no one can cure. The CDC can't help them;FEMA can't save them. But each savage attack brings Suffolk County Police Officer Gray Dalton one step closer to the shocking source of these unholy creations. Hidden on nearby Plum Island, a U.S. research facility has been running top-secret experiments. What they created was never meant to see the light of day. Now, a vacation paradise is going straight to hell.
"Hunter Shea is the real deal.. . .intense." --Gord Rollo, author of Valley of the Scarecrow and Crimson
"Shea delves deep into the unknown. A thrill-ride of a read!" --Alexandra Holzer, author of Growing Up Haunted
Publisher’s Weekly named the upcoming thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER, one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:
The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

June 26, 2014

Ready to Burn and Bury: an excerpt of Mark Matthews' new novel, "Milk-Blood"

One of the most anticipated reads of the summer.” -The Horror Bookshelf
MILK-BLOOD, by Mark Matthews, is now available on Amazon. It is a tale of urban horror set in Detroit that may be unlike anything you’ll read all year. MILK-BLOOD is the follow up to On the Lips of Children, the author’s debut piece of horror. The cover design is from Kealan Patrick Burke of Elderlemon Design, and the story was edited by Richard Thomas, Editor in Chief at Dark House Press.
What’s it about?
Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can't stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly's true father, and both want their daughter back.

The term upon which the title is based, “Milk-Blood” was made famous in the Neil Young Song “The Needle and the Damage Done.” A companion piece featuring a character from Milk-Blood, The Damage Done, is available for free on amazon and has been receiving tremendous reviews.
Praise for MILK-BLOOD

“An incredibly powerful story and one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. Guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat!”—The Horror Bookshelf

"I had to keep on reading no matter what, not able to break its spell." -Goodreads Librarian

“The originality and tension of the urban horror story, Milk-Blood is evident on every page. Matthews takes you to some very dark places, twists and turns, with the rabbit hole going deeper and deeper, until there is no way out. Not for the faint of heart, this story of love, loss, family and acceptance is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.” — Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss

What a dark, twisted and bizarre book this was. One of the most striking urban horror stories I have read in a long time.” Author Adam Light

"This is a helluva story. A discomforting tale of true inner city horrors, told by characters so real they pop off the page. Add the supernatural mix to the story and it really grabs you by the throat. Very much recommended!" — John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths



Chapter One
Puddles of mud.
After she confessed her eyes became puddles of mud, like tears had fallen upon dirty eye sockets and left a muddy mess.
“Okay, yes, it was Puckett. We had sex,” she squeaked. “Three times only. I didn’t mean to. Will you still take care of us?”
Latrice only confessed because she was caught. The paternity test showed a 99 percent chance that Zach wasn’t the father. She held the child of Puckett in her womb.
“Will you take care of us?” she asked again. It wasn’t a question. She was giving him a challenge. He took care of what he loved. His mother had been his to tend to for years, and they both got by with the help of some pills. He would take care of her until one of them died, because that’s what he did. But Latrice with another man’s child inside of her?
I will take care of things,” he answered, but he didn’t say the rest that he wanted to, which was, “Because the day I fucked you I caught an infection and now I have it for life.”
“What about Puckett? Will you do him like you usually do?”
“Yes, I will.”
He had to. Because now Puckett has the infection too, and he was sure to come around running his mouth about being the father of Latrice’s child.
Puckett spent three more days alive before Zach found him. Suffocation by choking had always been his choice when he wanted others to think for a moment about whose hands were killing them. His hands came alive with power when wrapped around someone’s throat. Like squeezing a loaf of soft bread he could squeeze necks, but when his hands were around Puckett’s bulging windpipe, he eased up. He wanted to hear him talk. He wanted a confession. When one didn’t come and Puckett played stupid, he squeezed until he saw a shade of blue in Puckett’s face and his body danced on the edge of death. Then he relaxed his fingers and let him gasp for air and come back to life. Dipping him in, and pulling him out. He could have done it all day, and nearly did, until the shade of blue seemed to burst and no more air was needed.
Later, Puckett would swim deep. The Detroit River doesn’t give up its dead easy, and it was a better option than his burn and bury method. Last time he burned something was when he fire-bombed the house across the street with a Molotov cocktail made of vodka (100 proof). The whole block around Brentwood was rained on with ashes and soot of the boy who died that night. Latrice loved it when she could get into his head and make him kill, except for this time when a boy had died. But now she was giving birth to a new child, a baby girl, to replace him on this street. Spirit in, spirit out.
Labor pains doubled her over in pain a month before her due date, and Zach drove her to the hospital at 4:30 am on a Tuesday. The delivery room was lit like a spaceship and reminded Zach of his trip to Vegas. No windows, no escape, and you won’t leave without being changed. He couldn’t tell if it was day or night as the hours passed. He slipped out more than once to chew on his own supply of Percocets or Vicodins or Xanax, and came back feeling cleansed each time.
What he saw was a foreign liquid flowing from between Latrice’s propped up legs. It smelled of something spoiled being cooked, something ominous—bigger than her, bigger than this hospital could handle. Latrice went inward into silent agony at times, at other times yelled not with words but noises. She dripped sweat, spasmed, and when the head crowned, Zach felt both nauseous bile and warm shivers of hope.
There was a one percent chance that the baby girl would have his ebony flesh. The miracle waited in his chest, thumping, wanting to explode. But on first sight the thump died. She did not. In fact, the baby’s flesh was a veiny blue color and so pale it was nearly see-through.
A heart condition kept the child in intensive care for days, in an incubator, looking like a blue frog ready to be dissected. Zach peeked in at her and tried to make eye contact, did make eye contact. This infant seemed to be his very own heart beating in front of him, shriveled and alien, with doctors prodding it to keep it alive.
“She’s going to die,” Latrice repeated again and again. “I can’t take this, I can’t see her. You do it, you stay here.”
He did, and he slept in the hospital on plastic pillows while Latrice went home to watch over his mother who lived with them on 618 Brentwood Drive.
His lone finger in the sterile glove touched the infant girl’s forehead.
Where’s my mother? She asked him with tiny motions of her incubated arms.
Soon. Soon you will see her. I am here. This is how it is.
Days later, talking hospital heads gave him instructions and medicine and appointment reminders, and he brought the child home to Latrice. Life had grown stronger in the nameless infant, but she was still barely bigger than the palm of his hand. At home the child shrieked and wailed as if it hurt just to be alive.
“This is not how it’s supposed to be,” Latrice said, watching Zach holding the wailing child at 3:36 am in the rocker on a Tuesday.
“This is how it’s going to be.”
He slept with the 10 day old baby flesh on his own. The skin was so thin you could see her insides, like it wasn’t fully done growing and she was thrown into the world before her time. Their bodies warmed each other and he rocked her on his chest until 4:25 am. She fell asleep against the beat of his heart.
On her mother’s chest, she refused to take the breast and would not sup at the nipple introduced to her mouth. Latrice seemed as scared of the child as the child was of it.
Medications the baby did take. Zach injected them into an IV port in her neck. Warnings from doctors rang in his ears. Too large of an injection could lead to asphyxiation. Failure to administer would do the same. She was already like so many who lived on this street and needed a daily drug to face each day.
Latrice curled up into a ball much of the time. Her hair, unwashed for days, became stringy as a broom. Pill bottles with the prescription labels rubbed off sat on the counter. Oxys or Xanax or both.
The infant tears came at night—sometimes for hours, non-stop. When they got too much and it seemed the child herself might shatter, the parents would wrap themselves in jackets against the cold and take dark trips to the hospital, only to be sent back home again. Sleeplessness weighed them down like soaking wet clothes.
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be,” she said.
“This is how it is,” he answered.
“No. No. You can take care of this. Take care of her like you do. Make it like it was before. She’s not meant to be alive.” Her eyes filled with tears once again. They pleaded to him. The infection bubbled in his veins.
Killing again would be easy.
He walked around the house, pacing, gaining energy with each stride, summoning up the courage to do the deed. This one needed to be fast and clean, unlike Puckett.
When he held the pillow over her face, he smothered her with his whole body weight to make it quick, but it may not have been needed. Things were fragile already, and they were just tiny breaths to take away this time.
The body fit easily into his trunk, the night air cold around him. The car seats were frigid leather. Soon the car would heat up, and things would be better. He whispered middle of the night words to his passenger in the back seat.
“We’re taking mommy to her grave. Then we’ll be home, and I will give you a name, and I will take care of you as long as I live.”
My infection is gone, he thought, as he drove with the body ready to burn and bury.

"An incredibly powerful story and one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. Guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat"
 ~The Horror Bookshelf Blog
"This is a helluva story. A discomforting tale of true inner city horrors, told by characters so real they pop off the page. Add the supernatural mix to the story and it really grabs you by the throat. Very much recommended." 
~ John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths
"What a dark, twisted and bizarre book this was. One of the most striking urban horror stories I have read in a long time"
 
~Adam Light, author of Gone




June 24, 2014

Noir My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine: a review of Matthew McBride's "A Swollen Red Sun"



A Swollen Red Sun
by Matthew McBride
Mysterious Press (2014)
254 pages
ISBN 1480485756 

If you're looking for a writer to capture the frailty of Missouri's criminal element, Matthew McBride is your man. Where he took Frank Sinatra in a Blender and showed the near-slapstick side of noir among bumbling crooks and scheming private-eyes, he has taken A Swollen Red Sun and shown the near-satanic side of noir among cranked-out mountain folk and the desperate lawmen out to stop them.

Gasconade County, Missouri has the reputation of being the meth capital of the world. Just wrap your head around that for a second. There's a whole lot of meth on this big ol' planet, and this backwater burg is ground zero for it. Whether true or not, it sure feels like the drug has permeated the county in this novel, like the way cigarette smoke gets into the upholstery and the walls of a home. It just sullies everything, especially the people. One unlucky soul winds up being a lawman, not because he's succumbed to the drug itself, but to the stash of cash he finds inside a ratty old trailer used to cook the stuff. Temptation sinks into him like that first, sweet hit and from then on his life is irrevocably damaged. It comes on slow, like the addiction. Feels good to have some money socked away to care for his family, maybe give them a better life. Make a guy feel like he's on top of the world, but it doesn't last. A drug steals away a person's soul bit by bit. That fleeting euphoria replaced by mounting dread, because the amoral junkies he's robbed want that money back.

It seems like I've been reading a fair number of books and seeing a fair number of movies about the downtrodden lately, and A Swollen Red Sun felt like it encapsulated many of them in a sense. Out of the Furnace, Southern Bastards, Donnybrook, No Country for Old Men, Winter's Bone, and others all find that glimmer of good running for its life on a mountain of malevolence. Matthew McBride's offering in the southern noir feels like a runaway train from the moment a cash-strapped deputy decided to steal that drug money hidden in cat litter. And it only gets better with every page.

I don't know what your taste in books is when it comes to summer reading, but if you are looking for some rawboned crime fiction, then A Swollen Red Sun is just that book.

June 23, 2014

Richard III--Out of the Parking Lot and Into the Fire: an interview with Sarah Cawkwell, author of "Uprising"

Sarah Cawkwell's new historical fantasy novel, UPRISING, is out now and available at bookstores everywhere (i.e., Amazon.com) and you can even find it on Rebellion Publishing's own online store. I had the chance to ask Sarah a few questions about Uprising and her writing, so enjoy!

Gef: Creating an alternate history in which Richard III isn't killed and dug up in a shop's parking lot, but rather reigns over England is intriguing enough, but you went one large step further by introducing a magical element to help explain just how he came to rule. Was the reason for this simply for the enjoyment of writing a fantasy novel or was there more behind that decision?

Sarah: I could wax lyrical about some devious reason for combining the alternative history and fantasy genres, but truth of the matter is… it just felt right. My editor put to me the idea of a fantasy tale based on a ‘what-if’ scenario from world history. Given the historical reference to the Plantagenet family as the demon kings, it seemed like an excellent starting place.

Gef: Prior to Uprising, you have experience writing novels in the Warhammer universe. Is there anything particular that you took from working with them to apply to writing your own novel?

Sarah: By their very nature, the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universes are very fight driven. It was certainly a great help when approaching battle scenes, but it was similarly a challenge to remind myself that there didn’t need to be any sort of mass decapitating or huge battle every other chapter!

Gef: Your fascination with King Henry stretches back to discovering the novelization of a TV series about the iconic king. But where does the fascination with Richard come from? Shakespeare? An extension of learning about Henry?

Sarah: It’s a combination of all the above, actually. I went off and did my own research about the family after I read ‘The Devil’s Crown’. It’s an incredible, turbulent period in history and so many accounts of Richard III - who was only king for a very short while before he got stomped all over by Henry Tudor – do appear to paint a very negative picture. I enjoyed a recent visit to the exhibition at Bosworth in Leicestershire (highly recommended!) and also to Ludlow Castle where Richard III spent time as a child and there is a definite ‘connection’ there for me. On my ‘bucket list’ is a trip to the last resting place of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It’s a weird preoccupation, but I don’t have the patience for stamp collecting.

Gef: Magic makes its appearance through Richard the Lionheart returning from the Crusades. What came first: the magic system or its inception? And what kind of rigor is needed to create such a system?

Sarah: The inception came first. Magic was needed, so how was it going to work? I went for elemental magic, because that provides certain limitations depending on which sphere most heavily influences you. There was a time when I was going to include the moon, sun and stars in the magical elemental forces, but I pulled it back to the basics.

That’s not to say that elemental magic is the only magic available to the people in the world of ‘Heirs’ – just all that there is right now…

Gef: As the first in a series, how "cliffhanger-y" should readers expect the novel to be? I speak as someone who has an aversion to those sudden, unresolved endings that feel like a door slamming at the end of a novel. What pitfalls do you come across in writing for a series as opposed to a stand-alone?

Sarah: I’m with you on the sudden unresolved endings thing. To that end, whilst there are ‘unanswered’ questions by the time you reach the end of the novel, there is also a self-contained story. I did my utmost to design it in order to allow a reader to draw their own conclusions about some of those questions.

When you are writing a series, or when you are writing any story that you know may contain characters or places that will be re-used, it’s important to keep a track of where some of those people are. Mind you, that’s true in a one-off book as well: I’ve read books where Character Z dies on page 25 and turns up again, alive and well and no worse the wear for his experience later in the story…

Gef: How has the working relationship been for you thus far with Solaris and Rebellion? What more might we expect from you down the line?

Sarah: The working relationship has been outstanding. The editorial process was engaging and very considerate. I am fortunate to have such a great editor who has worked with me every step of the way. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process so far and certainly hope to repeat it!

As to what to expect from me down the line… well, it’s a ‘watch this space’ sort of thing. As a freelance writer who has a ‘day job’, I am never working on too many projects at one time, but the whiteboard at home is certainly starting to fill up with deadlines.

By my calculations, the next thing to be published from me will be the second tale of Gilrain, the decidedly useless adventurer which will be a future anthology of tales to be put out by Fox Spirit Books. Gilrain made his first appearance in the collection ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon’ by the same publisher and as comedy-fantasy, it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever had the opportunity to write!


Big thanks to Sarah for stopping by the blog, and if any of you want to keep up with Sarah and her writing, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog (links are below).


Twitter: @pyroriffic

June 21, 2014

Coming Soon: "The Spectral Book of Horror Stories" edited by Mark Morris

Announcing a Brand New Annual Anthology!
THE SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES
Release date: September 2014
Published by Spectral Press, edited by acclaimed, award-winning novelist Mark Morris (Toady, Stitch, The Immaculate, Fiddleback and the forthcoming Obsidian Heart trilogy) and inspired by the Pan and Fontana books of horror and ghost stories, which were hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, The Spectral Book of Horror Stories will be the first volume of a non-themed annual horror anthology, showcasing all-original stories by the very best writers in the genre.
Each yearly volume will contain around fifteen to twenty stories, and will be available in paperback and e-book format across all platforms.
The cover for each volume will be a new and original work by multi-award-winning artist Vincent Chong.
The Spectral Book of Horror Stories will be launched with a mass signing session at the 2014 British Fantasy Convention in York (September 5-7, 2014), though the book can be pre-ordered direct from Spectral Press at http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/the-spectral-book-of-horror-stories-table-of-contents/
The final Table of Contents for volume one is:
ON THE TOUR - RAMSEY CAMPBELL

THE DOG'S HOME - ALISON LITTLEWOOD
FUNERAL RITES - HELEN MARSHALL
SLAPE - TOM FLETCHER
THE NIGHT DOCTOR - STEVE RASNIC TEM
DULL FIRE - GARY McMAHON
THE BOOK AND THE RING - REGGIE OLIVER
EASTMOUTH - ALISON MOORE
CARRY WITHIN SOME SMALL SLIVER OF ME - ROBERT SHEARMAN
THE DEVIL'S INTERVAL - CONRAD WILLIAMS
STOLEN KISSES - MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH
CURES FOR A SICKENED WORLD - BRIAN HODGE
THE OCTOBER WIDOW - ANGELA SLATTER
THE SLISTA - STEPHEN LAWS
OUTSIDE HEAVENLY - RIO YOUERS
THE LIFE INSPECTOR - JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
SOMETHING SINISTER IN SUNLIGHT - LISA TUTTLE
THIS VIDEO DOES NOT EXIST - NICHOLAS ROYLE
NEWSPAPER HEART - STEPHEN VOLK


For more information, please contact Spectral Press on the email address below. Mark Morris can be available for interview about this important new anthology: please contact Simon Marshall-Jones at the email below in the first instance and requests will be forwarded.
Web: spectralpress.wordpress.com | Email: spectralpress@gmail.com


June 20, 2014

Make It Medieval: an interview with Jad Ziade, author of "Damascus"

About Jad Ziade: Jad Ziade is a writer of prose fiction and comic books. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War and fled the country with his family in 1987. He now lives in Portland, Oregon. He is the writer of the acclaimed graphic novel series POISON THE CURE and the author of the novel DAMASCUS.

About Damascus: Damascus is in revolt. The king's agents move to silence dissidents raising arms against the monarchy. Legions of a faraway empire surround the city as diplomats and spies arrive to infiltrate the king’s court. Two boys are caught in the middle and flee to the snowy mountains west—for their lives and for the promise of ancient, buried gold. Rich with adventure and deceit, with sorcery and murder, DAMASCUS is the first book of The Syrian Revolution.


Gef: Damascus has a bit of that epic fantasy feel. Can you tell us a bit about it and how deeply you delve into the fantastical as opposed to other-worldly?
 

Jad: I would call both the other-worldly and the fantastical aspects of the story fairly minimal. There is magic in the story, but it's not always overt and its not widely believed to exist. Many characters think it's simply superstition. There are no characters, with the exception of one, that are not human. The most fantastical aspect of the story, from my view, is that it's set in a medieval version of Damascus that never really existed, at least not along specific historical fact. The fun part comes when we decide where to go from there, and that's when the fantasy aspect really begins to bloom.

Gef: The novel features a myriad of characters, and I suppose Damascus itself could be included as a character, so how much juggling is involved to give each character ample "stage time" to get their stories across?

Jad: That's always a hard decision and often you find yourself deep into the story wondering if you've made mistakes in that regard—and sometimes you have. But once your characters begin to breathe a little, they tell you how much stage time they want and you find yourself following along and sprinkling things here and there for the sake of other characters who are mostly in the background for now but might want to reveal themselves more in the future.

Gef: When creating an alternate world, is there any kind of balancing act when it comes to including familiar features of our world?

Jad: The balancing act for the world is much easier than the balancing act for numerous characters—especially for this story. I knew almost immediately I wanted to throw in a lot of familiar features, some remaining the same, some a bit different than what we know them to be—others anachronisms that have no place in a medieval world. Balancing how much of it to do turned out to be easier than I had feared.

Gef: Along with writing Damascus, you write comics as well. How big of a gear shift is it writing between the two formats?

Jad: It was huge. Having spent the last eight years writing comics—thumb-nailing stories before I would write the script, pacing scenes out from panel to panel, etc, it was very difficult to change gears. Novels are much more complex than 'pictures told with words' and the 'building block' ideas that every story uses to transmit necessary information about plot and character are sent in a fundamentally different manner in prose than in sequential art. It was a learning process.

I scrapped and restarted the novel twice, each time forcing myself to stop and consider the mistakes I had made. It was very aggravating, but necessary.


Gef: Seamus Heffernan did a pretty bang-up job on your cover. How did that working relationship come about?
Jad: Seamus and I have been friends for a while, having met when he was in art school a few years ago. He's a wonderful artist and he immediately sprang to mind when I thought of who might be a good fit to draw the cover. I'm very lucky to know such a swell guy.

You can find more of his comics work and illustration here: www.seaheff.com


Gef: One of the ways you are distributing this novel, at least for now, is through NoiseTrade. What drew you there and how have you found the experience thus far?
Jad: I found NoiseTrade through David Gaughran's blog. The idea is very interesting, but it's still too early to tell how things will fare. Regardless, like all other avenues, it's definitely worth a try.

Gef: Where else can folks find Damascus? What else do you have in the works?

Jad: You can find Damascus on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K9TEO8G

I'll be spreading to other retailers soon, but for now Amazon is the best bet. Soon I'll release the next novel in the series. It will be titled Homs. If you want to keep tabs on my progress, follow my facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jadziade) or my twitter (https://twitter.com/jadziade)
, or easiest of all, sign up for my mailing list (http://eepurl.com/TVJbX).
Thanks for your time, Gef!

June 19, 2014

Chasing Tale [6/19/14]: Getting Outraged Vs. Getting Outside

For months now, years really, the "Amazon Is Evil" debate has polluted my web browser. It's intensified these last few months because of the whole Hachette/Amazon negotiations and the strong-arm tactics being employed on both sides. Frankly, I'm tired of it. To be perfectly frank, I grew weary of it before it got started.

I'm not going to dive into the nitty-gritty of the kerfuffle, as you can entertain yourselves with that by reading the myriad of blogs and news articles already dissecting it. I just want to point out to the most fervent among you that it's time to chill the f**k out for a bit.

Besides, for whatever transgressions Amazon or Hachette have committed, there are a few more corporations I have higher on my "Evil As F**k" list. Monsanto and Walmart spring immediately to mind, and I don't go around the blogosphere decrying them at every turn.

It's summer. The birds are chirping. The sun is shining. And the barbeque is awesome. At least if you're not living in some environmentally devastated region of the continent, like those spots dealing with wildfires and/or drought. So stop getting outraged for five minutes and start getting outside.

Then maybe, just maybe, you can come back to your computer and piss and moan some more when you have something new to add to the debate.

Sound good? Good. And take a book with you while you're at it. Here are some suggestions:


Corrosion by Jon Bassoff - Honestly, I'm still not too sure what this novel is all about, but it's been recommended to me enough times now, I broke down and hit up the Kindle Store to get me a copy.

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology edited by Paul D. Brazill -A noir anthology that caught my eye, namely for Paul D. Brazill and Patti Abbott. For a book less than two-hundred pages, it's packed in well over twenty stories, so I'm guessing there are no wasted words.

Saving Grace Devine by Catherine Cavendish - Some gothic horror from Catherine and Samhain Publishing with a touch of time-travel thrown in for good measure. Sounds promising.


American Nightmare edited by George Cotronis - How about an anthology of monstrous stories set in mid-20th century America? Yeah, sounds good to me, too.

The Lizard's Ardent Uniform edited by David Cramner - I have no idea who Kyle J. Knapp is, but a bunch of authors saw fit to write stories inspired by the journal entries of the late poet.

East of Suez by Howard Engel - I won this mystery novel via Goodreads. It's the twelfth in the Benny Cooperman series, and I've not read Engel's work before, but I find the fact he suffered a stroke that hindered his ability to read yet managed to persevere and continue writing absolutely fascinating.


Elements of the Undead by William Esmont - I won this one a couple weeks back. If zombies are done, tell it to the towering pile of zombie novels populating my TBR pile.

Wrath of Michael by Suren Fant - This is the second book in Fant's Shade of Light series, with the archangel butting heads with ol' Satan and his minions by the looks of it.

"Shadow of Death" by Milo James Fowler - A short story sent to me by Milo, one which appears in last April's Bards and Sages Quarterly.

Let's Get Visible by David Gaughran -I downloaded Gaughran's Let's Get Digital from the Kindle Store a couple years ago and found it quite helpful, so I'm expecting more of the same on this followup.




God's Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert - This is inspired by real events surrounding a Christian Viking woman sailing to North America. This is around 1000 A.D. too, so we're talking some serious hardcore Vikings crossing the ocean.

The Blonde by Anna Godbersen -A spy thriller of sorts with some revisionist history thrown in to spice things up, featuring Marilyn Monroe as the main character as she's recruited by Soviet spies to get close to JFK. That's just swell.

We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley - This is a collection of Kameron's nonfiction on writing, science fiction, and everything in between. If it's like her fiction and her blog posts, it should be good.


Earthman Jack and the Ghost Planet by Matthew Kadish - This one is supposed to be a bit of a love letter to sci-fi and fantasy shows of the 80s/90s. Harry Potter meets Star Wars? We'll see.

Treasure Coast by Tom Kakonis - A new one from Brash Books described as "'Get Shorty' meets 'No Country for Old Men' on a sunny Florida coast teeming with conmen and killers, the vapid and the vain, and where violent death is just a heartbeat away." ... Hunh. Sounds good to me.

Dominican Baseball by Alan Klein - I won this title from Don Bratschie, the narrator of the audiobook edition. A nonfiction title that explores the influence of MLB on the Domican Republic and vice versa.


Pretty Little Dead Things by Gary McMahon - Much of what I've read of Gary's work has been of the short story and novella variety. All of it good to great. I have a couple of his novels on my bookshelf already, but when I stumbled across a copy of one of his earlier novels at a bargain price, I just couldn't resist.

A Is for Apocalypse edited by Rhonda Parrish - This anthology isn't due to hit shelves until August, but I received an ARC to get a sneak peak. Quite a few familiar names in the ToC too, like Damien Angelica Walters, Milo James Fowler, and Beth Cato.

Death Will Have Your Eyes by James Sallis -Mulholland Books is re-releasing this novel this summer. I haven't read it before, but it's by the fella who wrote Drive, so I'm more than willing to give it a go.


Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea - Hunter has a new novel out now called The Mantauk Monster, which came about after being contacted by an editor who read and loved this novella. Bigfoot in the swamp, babay!

The Getaway by Jim Thompson -I really want to tear into Thompson's books and this gritty little crime novel sounds like just the kind of book I'd enjoy.

Fight Card: Felony Fists by Jack Tunney - The pseudonymous handle of Jack Tunney has multiple stories up on the Kindle Store by multiple authors. A lot of pulpy, macho action tales, and I managed to snag this one as a freebie a week or two ago.


The Forty First Wink by James Walley - I won this ebook during James' Facebook launch party. A cool-looking fantasy tale published by Ragnarok Publications that's drawn some comparisons to the works of Terry Pratchett. With a fella waking up to find his imagination come to life, my interested in peaked.

Dirty Magic by Jaye Wells -I thoroughly enjoyed Jaye's Sabina Kane series, so I'm curious to see what she takes from her butt-kicking vampire books and applies to her butt-kicking magic-cop book.