September 30, 2015

Does Art Have To Imitate Life?: a guest post by Eric Matheny, author of "The Victim"

About The Victim: In the spring of 2003 on a desolate stretch of Arizona highway, Anton Mackey’s life was changed forever.  A reckless decision to get behind the wheel when he was in no condition to drive spawned a moment that threatened to destroy everything the 21 year-old had spent his life working toward.  In an instant, Anton made a decision to save himself.  A decision that claimed the lives of two people.

Eleven years later, Anton is a rising star in the Miami criminal defense community.  He is married and has an infant daughter.  He is earning a good living and steadily building a name for himself as an aggressive advocate for the accused.  Anton shares an office with veteran defense attorney, Jack Savarese.  A mentor of sorts, Anton strives to model his practice – and career – after Jack’s.  A Miami criminal defense legend, Jack’s accomplishments in the courtroom are second to none.  However, Jack remains burdened by the conviction of Osvaldo Garcia, a mentally-ill client from ten years earlier found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the death of a troubled teen.

When Daniella Avery, the beautiful wife of a man accused of a heinous act of domestic violence, comes into Anton’s office seeking his services, Anton thinks he’s landed a great case with a great fee.  But when he succumbs to temptation, he realizes that Daniella is a figure from his past.

Anton finds himself caught between the possibility of being exposed and the fact that his client – Daniella’s husband – may be an innocent pawn in the victim’s attempt to carry out her revenge against Anton.  As Anton struggles to balance defending his client while concealing the secret he has sought to forget, he uncovers the truth behind what really happened on that highway eleven years earlier.  The truth that may be connected to the conviction of Osvaldo Garcia.


Does Art Have To Imitate Life?: Do Genre Thriller Writers Have To Live The Stories They Tell?
a guest post by Eric Matheny

When I began writing, I never consciously sought out to become a legal thriller writer.  I guess that’s just where my imagination takes me.  Now, I am a practicing criminal defense attorney and the world of cops and prosecutors and courtrooms is what I experience on a daily basis.  I like to bring my experience and firsthand knowledge to my stories to create a sense of authenticity.  I’m big on that.  If you’re going to write a technical story - a medical thriller, a spy thriller, a police procedural - then you’d better know what the hell you’re talking about.  Some of the great genre thriller writers have worked in the fields that set the stage for their stories.  Grisham and Turow were both practicing attorneys (Turow still is).  Barry Eisler was a CIA operative before becoming a bestselling author of spy novels.

Not that firsthand experience is required.  Tom Clancy never operated a nuclear submarine and I’m pretty sure Stephen King has never seen dead animals rise from the grave.  Michael Connelly and John Lescroart are not lawyers yet they create excellent, well-researched legal thrillers (Connelly has the acclaimed Lincoln Lawyer series and Lescroart has a string of bestsellers featuring San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy). 

A great writer can research a field they know little about and create a magnificent and authoritative novel.  While not my favorite stylist, Dan Brown’s work (The Da Vinci Code, Angels And Demons) is a clinic in research.  His pages resonate with authority yet he does not have a background in symbology.  He was a musician and an English teacher before becoming a bestselling author.  But when he takes on a subject - be it the Vatican or the works of a renowned Renaissance artist - he dives headlong into grasping the minutia of a subject, creating an experience for the reader where one is entertained at the same time they are educated. 

I think that is a tremendous feat for a writer.  Keep your readers turning the pages while at the same time teaching them about a subject they know little about.  I certainly tried to do that with The Victim, walking my readers through the progression of a criminal case from arrest through trial. 

As far as process goes, here’s what I can tell you from my experience.  If you are a lawyer and you are writing a legal thriller, the research component has likely been satisfied.  Your life’s work is your research.  The years spent in law school, the tough cases you’ve handled, the battles you engage in on a daily basis, make up the lifeblood of your story.  The technical details that non-lawyer-authors will have to seek externally (talking to other lawyers, observing trials, reading texts and treatises) are already there for the lawyer-authors; a built-in mechanism.
So in that respect - and perhaps only in that respect - is the writing process a little bit easier for us.  At the very least, less time-consuming.

For your non-lawyers, you must look beyond your own experience to find the technical accuracy your audience demands.  Talk to practicing attorneys about their cases, go watch trials and take copious notes on procedure.
The same can be said for any genre.  Non-doctors can write great medical thrillers (read Trouble by Jesse Kellerman).  Non-CIA operatives can write great spy novels.  Clancy, Baldacci, and Terry Hayes (I Am Pilgrim) all come to mind.

The difference I see between writers with technical experience and writers without is not in the major plot elements.  A non-lawyer can just as easily understand how a criminal trial works the same as a lawyer.  But those in the know - your lawyers, your doctors, your spies - understand the personal aspects of their trades.  How their characters think and feel beyond their professional arenas - outside the courtrooms, away from the operating tables.

I believe it is that experience that provides a richness and depth that may give the slight edge to those writers who have walked the walk.





Eric Matheny was born in Los Angeles, California, where he lived until he went away to college at Arizona State University. At ASU he was president of Theta Chi Fraternity. He graduated with a degree in political science and moved to Miami, Florida, to attend law school at St. Thomas University. During his third year of law school, he interned for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, where he worked as a prosecutor upon graduation. In 2009, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. He is a solo practitioner representing clients in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Broward County, Florida. He has handled everything from DUI to murder.
In his free time, Eric enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He published his debut novel Home in 2004, which centers around a successful drug dealer catering to the rich in Orange County. His second novel Lockdown, published in 2005, follows a law student trying to prove that an inmate serving a life sentence in one of California’s toughest prisons might actually be innocent. Eric’s latest novel The Victim, is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. It was published by Zharmae in August 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon.
Eric lives outside of Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two young sons.
Readers can connect with him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to EricMathenyBooks.com

September 29, 2015

Available Today: Susan McBride's "Say Yes to the Death"

If evil bakers and wedding planners are your thing, check out the latest from Susan McBride: Say Yes to the Death. It seems lighthearted for a book that essentially starts with a knife in the throat, after all.
Say Yes to the Death is the sixth in the Debutante Dropout series and it goes on sale today! You can find it at Amazon, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and anyplace else you like to buy books.
Someone old, someone cruel
Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?
Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don't. Though Andy's fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood, the first of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. The award-winning series includes The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. She's also the author of The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at her website or on Facebook.

September 28, 2015

A Demon in the Paperback: an interview + giveaway with Hunter Shea, author of "The Dover Demon"


Hunter Shea is the author of the novels The Montauk Monster, Tortures of the Damned, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, and The Dover Demon. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the Cemetery Dance anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. He’s currently working on or completed a few more manuscripts set to come.
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.
Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors, and anyone else living in the horror lane.

He lives in New York with his family and vindictive cat. He waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Dover Demon is real…and it has returned.

In 1977, Sam Brogna and his friends came upon a terrifying, alien creature on a deserted country road. What they witnessed was so bizarre, so chilling, they swore their silence. But their lives were changed forever.


Decades later, the town of Dover has been hit by a massive blizzard. Sam’s son, Nicky, is drawn to search for the infamous cryptid, only to disappear into the bowels of a secret underground lair. The Dover Demon is far deadlier than anyone could have believed. And there are many of them. Can Sam and his reunited friends rescue Nicky and battle a race of creatures so powerful, so sinister, that history itself has been shaped by their secretive presence?


Available at AmazonBarnes and NobleSamhain


Gef: There is no corner of the world it seems without a story about an alien encounter. In the U.S. in particular, Area 51 and Fire in the Sky seem to have a lot of the hype out in the south west. So what was the hook for you to write about the Dover Demon, which is set in the northeast?

Hunter: You know, as my brain pan was formulating the story, I thought of the Dover Demon strictly as a cryptid, an earthbound creature that popped up in Massachusetts over two nights and was never seen again. I read Loren Coleman's account of the encounters and was thrilled with the idea of tackling another mysterious 'monster'. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this could have been an brush with something not of this world. What if it was just something that happened to touch down, pay a quick visit and take off to a place we couldn't fathom existing? I've been very interested in UFOs all my life. I have shelves of books on the subject and will watch any movie about aliens, no matter how terrible. Monsters and aliens are my wheelhouse. How could I resist? 

So now I had a dilemma. Just what the hell was the Dover Demon? I live in the northeast, so I'm very familiar with the terrain and the legends. The hard part was finding a way to meld all of these possibilities into a narrative that would not only terrify my readers, but make them question their own reality. The Dover Demon is a true enigma, and I realized trying to fictionalize the story was going to be a big challenge. I like a challenge. 

Gef: When I was a kid, the idea of aliens freaked me out. Even E.T. was the stuff of nightmares for me when I was little. So how did you take to them in your formative years? With wonder or terror?

Hunter: I'm not going to lie, I was totally fascinated by them. If a spaceship landed in my yard and aliens came shambling out like they did in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I was ready to go with them. Then I read Whitely Streiber's Communion, his account of being abducted multiple times in a place not far from my house. It was terrifying, and my views on aliens and UFOs changed. I dove into books by Budd Hopkins, J. Allen Hynek and John Mack. Maybe aliens weren't so benevolent. I was enthralled, but I had my reservations. I didn't want them in my house and I wasn't going to run into a waiting spaceship. It's such a fascinating subject, and if one percent of what abductees says is true, it's the most frightening thing in our world. 

Speaking of frightening, I've had one instance of sleep paralysis in my life and it involved aliens. I was pretty sick with a summer flu. My girlfriend came over to take care of me, getting me Tylenol, something to drink, a cold washcloth, the works. I drifted off to sleep and she went downstairs to watch TV. It seemed like I woke up immediately because my room was filled with a green light. I couldn't lift my head off the pillow to see what was causing it. Next thing I know, my bed was surrounded by what we call tall, thin gray aliens. I wanted to scream but was frozen. One of them reached down to put its hand over my mouth. Mercifully, that's when the whole thing broke. I finally pulled out of my sleep paralysis and the light and aliens went away. It was totally a product of my mind, but if people actually experience that, I pray for their souls and sanity. 

Gef: Any tidbits in your research that you thought were great but didn't make it into the novel for whatever reason?

Hunter: Because the Dover Demon was only spotted by a half dozen teens over two nights, there isn't a lot of meat to the story. I pretty much put it all in there. My concept was this - what if other teens saw something but didn't tell anyone about it because what they saw was so disturbing, they were too terrified to speak of it. That gave me free reign to add other aspects of aliens and unknown creature lore to the tale. 

Gef: I'm not sure exactly how long the whole UFO phenomenon has been going on, but it has certainly been something that has latched onto the human psyche. I mean, even with our awareness of how handily a pic can be photoshopped or a video given the ol' Lucas Arts treatment, a new UFO sighting or such will become water cooler talk in no time flat. Are we just predisposed to believe or want to believe in alien encounters?

Hunter: Mankind has had encounters with unknown creatures and has been seeing odd things in the sky for thousands of years. From Ezekiel's flying chariot of flames in the Bible to tales of wee folk in Ireland, we've been trying to make sense of our strange world. In the 20th century, they became UFOs and extraterrestrials. There's more to our world than we can think of, and the way we perceive it changes as our culture changes. Plus, it's a whole lot more fun to believe that there is something out there, an intelligence far beyond our own, and hopefully someone that can lead us better than we've led ourselves. 

About UFO pictures, it's because of the advances in technology when it comes to manipulating them and video that we put less and less trust in what used to be considered solid avenues of proof. We have to look back at older pictures and 8mm videos as more concrete evidence. 

Gef: What's your favorite alien-related flick? Something recent or one of the classic B-movies?

Hunter: I watch Communion at least once a year. It's about Whitely Strieber's experiences. I love that it's set in New York, stars Christopher Walken (more cowbell!) and has a soundtrack by Eric Clapton. I'm not saying it's a great movie, or even a good one, but it's one of my go-tos. I just love the vibe of that flick. Alien is my all time favorite horror and sci-fi movie. Dear God, please don't let real aliens be anything like them! Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of my all time favorites, as is Invaders from Mars. I could sit here listing alien movies all day. 

Gef: Aliens and horror seem like a perfect fit, but for every good execution, there must be two or three that miss the mark. What's the trickiest thing about creating a horror story that involves alien life?

Hunter: I think a lot of people either tread ground that's been trampled to death (yes, you got abducted and probed and the mean aliens left you on the side of the road) or too ambiguous for a reader or viewer to get a sense of what the hell just happened. You have to make the threat seem plausible. Your characters have to be relatable. Put them in vulnerable positions. Meld the familiar with something fresh and terrifying. It's not easy, but it can be done. 

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

Hunter: I've written four books this year, so readers have a lot to look forward to. First up will be a brutal little novella called I Kill in Peace! It's a total departure from anything I've written before. No monsters in that one, but something far scarier. Next will be my first sea monster story called They Rise. That was a blast to write. I have another cryptid novel coming out with Pinnacle next fall and my last book, tentatively titled We Are Always Watching will either come out later in the year or early 2017. You all can keep track of my insanity at www.huntershea.com. While you're there, sign up for my newsletter because I tend to give a lot of free stuff to subscribers. Thank you so much for having me today. You hit on one of my favorite subjects to talk about - aliens, not myself! 



First giveaway!
On this tour, win one signed print copy of The Dover Demon if you are in the U.S.! Just sign-up at the Rafflecopter link below:
Second giveaway!
Hunter Shea’s other summer smash hit, Tortures of the Damned, was featured in Fangoria magazine. He’s giving away 2 signed copies that Fangoria. How do you win? Anyone who signs up for Dark Hunter Newsletter (http://huntershea.com/newsletter/) before the end of today and lives in the US is eligible. Already signed up? Refer a friend and if they win, grab it from their mailbox.

September 25, 2015

A Dangerous Assumption: an excerpt of Christie Meierz' "Farryn's War" (+ a giveaway)

Award-winning author Christie Meierz writes space opera and science fiction romance set in a civilization of empaths on the edge of a dystopic Earth empire. Her published works include her bestselling debut novel, The Marann, its sequels, and two prequel short stories published in Into Tolari Space ~ The First Contact Stories. Her latest novel, Farryn’s War, came out on September 22, 2015.

Christie has spent a night and/or eaten a meal in all 50 U.S. states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her mathematician husband and an assortment of stuffies. When she’s not writing, she writes about writing on her blog, Meierz Musings (christiemeierz.com/blog), Twitter (http://twitter.com/christiemeierz), and Facebook (facebook.com/christie.meierz and facebook.com/tolarispace), where she welcomes comments and friend requests.


 Excerpt from Farryn’s War, Chapter 3
© 2015 Christie Meierz

RPS Cormorant-C, 18 Dec 2553
The business class nightclub piped Neapolitan piano jazz over the comms. A few brave souls clustered under an antique disco ball, attempting to dance to the irregular, shifting beat. Adeline, in uniform because she’d had nothing else in her go-kit, wove her way through the chairs and tables around the dance floor, conversations stilling in her wake, her eyes on the bar at the back of the club. It had been a very long day sifting through data from the Far India office.
A lean man with eyes like jade and hair that might have once been auburn stood behind the counter, racking wine glasses. He looked her up and down with raised eyebrows, clearly surprised to serve someone in gray. “What’ll it be?”
Was that a touch of New York in his voice?
“Scotch, neat.” She scooted onto a barstool. “Britannic, if you have it. Make it a double.”
He eyed her as one hand reached unerringly for a bottle on the rack behind him. “That’s a man’s drink.”
“I do a man’s work. You have a problem with that?”
He turned to pour the drink before she could determine if his twitching lips meant he was trying to stifle a chuckle. The back he presented was… broad-shouldered, and narrow-hipped, and might have been muscular, under the loose ship’s jumpsuit. Nice. His face smooth once more, he laid a paper coaster—real paper, not plastin-paper—on the counter in front of her and placed a squat, hexagonal tumbler of scotch on it.
“Must be a VIP aboard.” She fingered the coaster.
He smirked and began to wipe down the bar top, starting at her end. “You mean you don’t know?”
“I booked this passage fifteen minutes before it left.”
“So you’re the one who delayed us.”
She lifted the scotch to eye level and peered at him through the gently sloshing liquid. “A whole minute. Whatever will you do?”
This time he did chuckle. “Pitch you out the nearest airlock. And it was three minutes.”
“Horrors.”
“We’ll be scrambling to catch up for weeks.”
“I’m sure you’ll survive. Somehow.”
“I suppose our reputation for punctuality will have to make way for the good of society. What brings you aboard the good ship Cormorant? Pursuing a dangerous fugitive or some such?”
“Something like that.”
He offered a hand. She shook it.
“I’m Kieran.”
“Addie.”
“Ada? Adrienne?”
“Adeline.”
“Sweet.” He winked.
“Ha-ha.”
“You must get that a lot.”
“Only from suicidal bartenders.”
A waiter interrupted them with a drink order. While Kieran busied himself with bottles, shakers, and ice, Adeline sipped at the scotch. The flavor—
“This isn’t Britannic,” she said.
Kieran cleaned his work area after the waiter shouldered the tray of drinks and left. “Nope.” He turned the bottle, briefly, to reveal a yellowed and worn label from an ancient distillery in Scotland.
She whistled. “I need to look up that VIP.”
“Just a spoiled Ahmadiyya aristocrat who didn’t want Daddy to know he’d been drinking, too rich to care what he left behind.”
“Convenient. So why serve it to me? People in my profession aren’t exactly popular.”
“I wondered what a nice girl like you was doing in that uniform.”
She savored another mouthful of the vintage scotch. “That’s a dangerous assumption to make.”
“What is?”
“That I’m a nice girl.”


Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and ebook copies of the entire Tolari Space series using the Rafflecopter form below.

September 23, 2015

Dark Fiction in the Dark Ages: an interview with Lesley Conner, author of "The Weight of Chains"

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.


THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS: Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul.


When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles's tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family –move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.



Gef: What was the allure of medieval Europe that it wound up as the backdrop for your debut novel?

Lesley: It wasn’t the allure of medieval Europe so much as the allure of Gilles de Rais that led me use 15th century France as the backdrop for my debut novel. When I was in high school I toted around this old Time-Life book about serial killers. My teachers all thought it morbid and strange, but I was seriously obsessed with the thought process of someone who would do something so wretched. Gilles de Rais had a brief section in that book, which led me to doing more research on him. He was a nobleman and a war hero. People looked up to him, respected him. And he slaughtered the most innocent of his subjects. The idea horrified me, but I also found it fascinating. Add in the fact that he was into the occult, but still held a rigid ideal of being a good Catholic, and he became a character that I couldn’t resist.

Gef: The tone of the book feels very dark, at least with the premise of tyrannical rulers and demonic summoning and all that jazz? Would you say the story falls in with what's been called "grimdark" these days?

Lesley: Grimdark seems to be used more often to refer to fantasy novels, which doesn’t really fit The Weight of Chains. While it is set in a medieval times period, and shows medieval life in a more realistic setting (starvation and disease are real threats that play an integral part of the novel), it is definitely a horror novel. Actually, extreme horror would probably be a more accurate description.

When most people think of horror in general, or extreme horror more specifically, they don’t often think of historical stories, especially ones set during the 15th century, which I think is a shame. One of the things I did while writing The Weight of Chains was search for other current horror novels set during this time period. I wanted to see how other authors handled things such as dialogue and tone and whether or not to use contractions. I wasn’t looking to copy anyone’s style, but I wanted to get a feel for what worked for me and what didn’t. My search came up pretty dry. Sure, you have Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies and a few others that follow that format of mashing literature with horror, but that wasn’t what I was going for. I did read Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. Fantastic historical horror, but more than 200 years too recent.

I would love to see historical horror become more popular. There are so many time periods and situations in which authors can throw monsters, both supernatural and human.

Gef: With a story like this, it sounds like you had to not just carve out your own world, but a magic system to boot. How much of a rabbit hole is it for you when dealing with those aspects of the world building?

Lesley: I actually managed to avoid the magic rabbit hole for the most part, which is good because believe me when I say I fell down plenty of world building rabbit holes while working of The Weight of Chains. There’s a LOT of research that goes into writing a historical novel, everything from what the people would have worn to the layout of castles. So much research.
Yes, there is a wizard in the novel. His name is Prelati, and he’s hired by Gilles to raise a demon called Barron. But the thing is he’s not a very good wizard. He does manage to contact Barron, but it’s more like if a spirit sees a bunch of teenagers playing around with a Ouija board and decides to fuck with them. The teenagers didn’t actually contact the spirit, the spirit contacted them. Barron noticed Prelati trying to conjure him, so he decides to see what’s up. And when he sees what is going on in the castle and the situation that Prelati is in, it doesn’t take long for the demon to decide that sticking around to see what kind of chaos he can add to the mix will be a grand time.

Gef: Say the word "wizard" these days and the casual reader is going to think Harry Potter quite likely, so what is your approach with things like that, where preconceptions may run completely contrary to what you've concocted?

Lesley: I think it’s impossible to write a novel now a days without people jumping to conclusions and thinking that they know what it’s about without reading it. I guess that’s normal, considering how much half-information we can all glean by scrolling through Twitter or ready a couple of blog headlines. It’s impossible to avoid.

As to how to approach those preconceptions … Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve tried to be very upfront about what The Weight of Chains is. It’s a horror novel. And a pretty violently graphic one at that. If people choose to not believe that, or if they skew what that means because they see the word “wizard” or “historical” or because they have preconceptions about what horror written by a woman is or how it should be, there is nothing that I can say or do to change that. At that point - the point where they have a copy of the book in their hands - then the only thing I can do is let my story stand for itself.

Gef: Is this a world you're hoping to revisit in future books?

Lesley: My personal preference tends to lean toward stand-alone books, and when I wrote The Weight of Chains, I intended for it to be a one shot deal. But I’ve had a lot of people who have read it ask me about a sequel. They want to know what happens next. I do have a glimmer of an idea for a second novel, nothing solid, nothing that I’m running off to write right this minute, but if it starts to take on more shape and to fill in with some details, and if there seems to be an interest, then coming back to this world is a possibility.

Gef: How has working as an editor helped you approach your own writing?

Lesley: Working as an editor for Apex has really helped me see how publishing – and writing as an extension of that – is a business. Getting a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad story. It could mean that it wasn’t right for that publication, or that they already have a story that is similar waiting to be published. It could mean that the editor really liked the writing, but the ending didn’t quite click for them. Apex Magazine receives around 1,000 short story submissions every month. We publish 3 or 4. That means we end up rejecting some pretty amazing stories every month, because it’s impossible to buy all of the good ones.

It’s also shown me that editors and publishers are people. People who love to read and love books and want writers to succeed. I think when you’re first starting out as a writer, it’s very easy to imagine editors as these publishing gods, sitting up on their thrones made out of rejected manuscripts, casting judgement with no thought or consideration to the lowly writer’s feelings. Editors are people. I’m a person. One who has a job and a family and responsibilities just like anyone else. My job just happens to be as an editor.

So how have these realizations helped me approach my own writing? Well, they’ve really put into focus that I need to write the story that I want to tell. I can’t let the word of an editor change who I am as a writer, because it could be that the story just isn’t for them. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t for any editor out there ever. The Weight of Chains started out as a short story. I submitted it to an anthology and got back a nasty rejection with the editor of the anthology telling me it would never be published because it was too violent and graphic, and it involves children. I cried. I was completely shattered and put the story away for about 9 months. I kept writing other stories, but “The Weight of Chains” and its characters kept talking to me. I decided to pull it out of the short story junk drawer and ended up talking to J.F. Gonzalez about it. I didn’t know what to do with this 8,000 word historical story that took place in the halls of a castle. Something I said must have sparked an interest because he asked to read it. Even though I was terrified that he would say the same thing the editor had told me, I sent it to him. A few days later I got a response. He thought I should expand it, that the story needed to be a novel. Same short story, two completely different responses by writing professionals.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received?

Lesley: In my opinion, the worst piece of writing advice is probably the one that most writers hear most often: Write every day.

I think the underlying intention of that sentiment is good – write, if you want to write a novel (or a short story, blog post, essay, anything), you have to write, you can’t just talk about it – but I have two young daughters, I’m the managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, I’m the troop leader for a very active Girl Scout troop, I do freelance editing, I’m a wife, friend, and daughter. And you know what, every single one of those things is important to me and takes time out of my day. Having those things in my life doesn’t mean that I’m not a writer, or that writing isn’t important enough to me. It means that I have a life and I’m building experiences that will make my writing richer and better. And I do write. It just might not happen every single day.

Daniel Jose Older recently wrote an essay about this, and the shame that can come from failing to write every day, and he’s spot on. When I first started writing with the intention of being published, if I would fail to write one day, this mass of guilt and anxiety and the very real dread that I was failing would slowly begin to eat away at me. I’d wonder why I was even trying to carve out time to work on my stories. If I can’t do it every day, then obviously it wasn’t important enough to me.

That’s bullshit. Believe me when I say that I have more than enough self-critical thoughts roaming around my head trying to trip me up. I don’t need to heap on guilt and anxiety over missing a day of writing.

Gef: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to books or movies or whatnot, or anything a little off the beaten path from what most folks enjoy?

Lesley: I love zombies. Books, movies, TV shows. It doesn’t matter. I will consume them all. Hell, half my wardrobe consist of t-shirts with zombies on them. I love them. I was a fan before they became enormously popular, watching old movies with my little brother and a bowl of popcorn most weekends when we were kids. And when they suddenly hit big, I was in absolute paradise! After a few years of being everywhere, a lot of people seem to be getting burned out on zombies, but not me.

Yes, a lot of the time it can be the same basic story, a group of survivors against the undead, different names and faces all going through the same motions, but I think that’s part of the appeal to me. I read a lot – different genres, different styles, different voices – but when things in my life are getting hectic and I can’t focus on a heavy read, I will almost always grab a zombie novel or watch a zombie movie. There’s something comforting in the familiarity. Add in a dash of death, some chopping teeth, and a healthy dose of gore, and I’m happy.

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

Lesley: Jason Sizemore and I are currently editing a Best of Apex Magazine anthology that’s set to be released in early December. Going back through and reading all the original fiction from past issues of Apex Magazine and pulling out the best of the best has been a lot fun.

On the writing front, I’m working on a new novel. It’s a near future sci-fi that’s heavily influenced by the 1920s speakeasy scene and a reviewer for the New Yorker named Lois Long. Lots of alcohol, sex, and obituaries written for the gin joints that didn’t make it. The mixture of futuristic science fiction with history, and prose with magazine articles is incredibly exciting to write. I’m still testing out what’s going to work and what I’ll end up cutting, but the story is starting to take shape.

To keep up with everything going on in my little corner of the world, people can follow me on Twitter at @LesleyConner.


September 22, 2015

Creating Darkness: a guest post by Brick Marlin, author of "Shadow Out of the Sky"

Brick Marlin's Shadow Out of the Sky Tour
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Creating Darkness
a guest post by Brick Marlin

I submerged myself into the creation of “Shadow Out of the Sky” with the premise of twisting the beloved Pied Piper into a sinister entity which returns to present day, decades later, shoving the world into an apocalypse by possessing each and every child, evolving them into flesh and blood killing machines, slaughtering adults – beginning with the slaughter of their parents. And if unleashing killer children were not enough, the entity orders people dragged into a field and impaled to death. There is also an appearance of huge rats, grown within the flesh of the children, birthing, splitting the young skin wide open, and spilling the monsters.

The book’s idea originally came from my short story “Woodbury”, published in Morpheus Tales Magazine #12, as well as appearing in their anthology, “The Best Weird Fiction Volume 4”, 3 years later.

I wanted to write a horrifying tale, making sure it to be apocalyptic terror, minus zombies. I wished to stay clear a cliché’s – one of my pet peeves when writing. I will admit I do enjoy novels, movies and especially the television series “The Walking Dead” with zombies. I grew up watching a lot of what I consider vintage horror, such as “The Wolfman” (1941) and “The House of Wax” (1953). Later my interests slipped into watching “The Thing” (1982), “The Howling” (1981) and even “An American Werewolf In London” (1981). So, being I doused myself in horror growing up, I dumped the bucket of pig’s blood over my head, inviting gruesome thoughts to inflict upon the human race. And what is the most sinister? Children becoming little monsters. Gage in Stephen King’s “Pet Cemetery” showed the world how demonic a dead child can be. And let’s not forget “Children of the Corn”.

Shadow Out of the Sky” is the first book in the Transitional Delusions series, a dark world flavored with dark science fiction, horror and a bit of cyberpunk. Please consider checking out my book. I have already been collecting good reviews, found either on Goodreads or Amazon. Also, please consider checking out my website, www.brickmarlin.com.



BrickMarlin_AuthorPhoto
About the author: Brick Marlin has been writing since he was a child. From an early age he was exposed to older horror movies. The great ones making their mark in history. He also tackled reading the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Dean Koontz, Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, H.G. Wells, etc. Thus, he decided to engage himself and write horror, dark fantasy and dark sci-fi, scaring readers such as his parents, his friends, neighbors, and even leaving a few school teachers scratching their heads wondering if the boy should be committed or not with his gruesome tales of terror. Short story ideas continued to visit. A book idea or two sometimes stopped by for a sit. In 2007 he decided to take a more professional approach with his work. Hence, as a member of the Horror Writers Association, already having nine books published by small presses – this you hold in your hand, constant reader, makes his tenth – nearly thirty short stories published, adding to the few anthologies and collaborations with other authors, Brick Marlin trudges onward, hoping to achieve more creations, wallowing in the brain pans of his characters, giving them the choice whether to twist the knob and enter through the Red Door, or enter through the Blue Door where a group of servo monkey badgers are consuming packages of cinnamon-flavored Pop Rock Candy with a Kung Fu Punch of caffeine.



ShadowOutoftheSkyCover_1200X800Book Synopsis for Shadow Out of the Sky: A scarecrow crucified on a wooden cross made from a pair of two-by-fours sits in a field of corn, placed there to frighten away birds and protect the crops. Under its straw hat large buttons pose as its eyes, placed there by child’s fingers, view something sinister in the grave sky, appearing in front of the full moon.

Twisting, it forms into a sleek black mass, peering down upon the town of Woodbury. Four demons called The Reckoning has pulled this shadow, this urban legend from the past, out of an unmarked grave to bring terror across the planet, shoving it toward an apocalypse.

Now it cuts through the air, as if it were opening wounds in flesh, peering down at the first house that it hovers over...

Shadow Out of the Sky is Book One of the Transitional Delusions Series

Author Links:

Website:
www.brickmarlin.com

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Brick-Marlin-182914455094243

Twitter:
@BrickMarlin

Tour Schedule and Activities

9/21 Erin Fanning Review
9/21 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
9/21 Wag the Fox Guest Post
9/22 Novel-ties Review
9/23 Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post
9/23 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
9/25 fuonlyknew Review
9/25 L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings Review
9/25 Bee's Knees Reviews Guest Post
9/25 Azure Dwarf Guest Post
9/27 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top-Tens List



Amazon Links for Shadow Out of the Sky
Print Version http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Out-Sky-Brick-Marlin/dp/1941706207
Kindle Version http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Out-Transitional-Delusions-Book-ebook/dp/B00RB2PISY

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadow-out-of-the-sky-brick-marlin/1120954039?ean=9781941706206

September 18, 2015

Chasing Tale [Books Received for Sept 19, 2015]: You Are What You Write and Other Bullshit Attitudes

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



The Awesome by Eva Darrows - This YA vampire novel came on sale at the start of the month and the cover art alone had me drawn to it. I'm picking up a bit of a 90s vibe from it, but that could just be the cover art along with the premise of a teen girl hunting monsters. Throw in the twist that she can't get her official hunter's license until she loses her virginity, and this could have some real comedy added to it, too.

Kingdom of Shadows by Greg F. Gifune - As far as I know, this novella published by DarkFuse is still free right now on the Kindle Store, so there's really no excuse for you not to go download it. A bunch of crooks holed up somewhere with a macabre figure hunting them down? I'm in.

General Slocum's Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann - A 99 cent bargain on the Kindle Store for this Bram Stoker Award-nominated novelette. This one has an ex-con with an unnaturally gifted ability of stealing things on the hunt for buried treasure on an island in the East River. Sounds good to me.


The Mrs. McGillicuddy Mysteries Season 1 Episode 1 by K.H. Koehler - As an enticement, this first installment in a steampunk serial novel was free for the yoinking last week on the Kindle Store. It's still less than a buck at its regular price.

Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell - This was a Kindle Daily Deal a week or two ago. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it, but it came heavily recommended by others, so I scooped it up on the cheap. Turns out it's one of those gritty urban fantasy series that I tend to go for anyway, so bonus points there.

The Last King's Amulet by Chris Northern - I received a review copy of this epic fantasy. I thought it was pretty universal that this genre required books to be big moose-stunning tomes, but this one clocks in at less than 300 pages. There are four books in the series, so maybe this is like an epic fantasy version of a serial novel.


Jasmine and Garlic by Monica J. O'Rourke - This short story is a freebie on the Kindle Store. I picked it up, as I realized that I didn't have anything by Monica on my TBR pile. So that's fixed for now.

Wanted: Single Rose by Mav Skye - This is a review copy that wound up on my pile, which features a psycho thriller centered around Halloween. Mav's gonna be stopping by the blog later on to talk about this one, so watch out for that.

Stained by Lee Thomas - This is Lee's debut novel, re-issued last year as a 10th anniversary edition through Lethe Press. Not sure what it's about, but the cover looks gruesome as all get out ... or maybe it's a coffee-themed horror novel. Either way, he wrote The German, which was amazing, so I'm in.


For the Night Is Dark edited by Ross Warren - This darkness-themed anthology was only 99 cents when I snagged it. It has stories by Kevin Lucia, Gary McMahon, Tonia Brown, William Meikle, and a bunch more, so I'm bound to find at least four stories I'll enjoy.

Aftermath (Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens) by Chuck Wendig - I picked up a copy of this Star Wars novel after a bunch of homophobic neckbeards lost their shit over the fact it features a gay character and one-starred the bejesus out of it on Amazon. This'll be my first Star Wars novel experience too, as I just started reading it. I'm a mark for Wendig's novels anyway, so there ya go.

Half-Made Girls by Sam Witt - A very weird western vibe from this Kindle Store freebie. And when you get it, there's a link to sign up for Sam's newsletter and get another free book, so I'll have to do that, too.


You Are What You Write and Other Bullshit Attitudes

It's a long held belief among more than a few people in this world that horror authors must be psychologically disturbed to write the things they do. It's an extension of that thing where readers will ask an author: "Where do you get your ideas from?" Only with horror authors, it's more like: "Where do you get your ideas from, you sicko?"

If you've ever asked this of an author, or even just wondered it to yourself, please ... just stop.

Apply that idea to any other genre and you might get an idea of how astonishingly silly it sounds. Do people who write horror harbor some kind of psychotic ill will? No! Otherwise our prisons would be filled with typewriters. You're as likely to find a horror author is also a serial killer as you are to find a sci-fi author is also a time traveler. Do you perhaps also believe children's books are written by children?

It's such a surreal notion to me that there are people of sound mind out there walking around with the belief that Stephen King must have bodies buried in his basement. And not just King, but any writer who doubtlessly gets a perverse thrill from writing about murder and monsters and morose subject matter.

At the end of the day it boils down to imagination. People who have it, use it. People who don't cannot fathom what goes on in the minds of those who do.

September 16, 2015

Horror Is Where the Heart Is: an interview with Rio Youers, author of "Point Hollow"

Point Hollow, NY. A town with secrets. To the tourists that visit each summer, it is quintessential America. They stroll through its picturesque streets and hike its stunning trails. No one sees the cracks in the town's veneer. No one knows its terrible history . . . a secret that has been buried-forgotten. But Abraham's Faith, the mountain that overshadows Point Hollow, doesn't forget so easily. It is wicked and controlling. It is filled with the bones of children. Oliver Wray is Point Hollow's favorite son, its most generous benefactor, admired by all. But Oliver, like the town, has a secret: Abraham's Faith speaks to him, and he has spent a lifetime serving its cruel needs. He believes his secret is safe, but one person has glimpsed the darkness in his heart. . . . Matthew Bridge hasn't set foot in Point Hollow for twenty-six years. Something horrifying happened to him there. Memories of an ordeal that flicker and taunt, but cannot be recalled. Now, trying to find the answers to his failed marriage and failing life, Matthew is coming home. Back to Point Hollow. Back to Abraham's Faith. (source: Amazon.com)

Rio Youers is a multi-platform writer, working in books and comics. He is the author of Mama Fish (Shroud Publishing) and Old Man Scratch (PS Publishing)—the latter earning him a British Fantasy Award nomination in 2010. His novelette, This is the Summer of Love, was the title story of PS Publishing’s first new-look Postscripts anthology, a publication in which Rio has appeared three times. His short fiction has also been published by, among others, St. Martin’s Griffin, Cemetery Dance, and IDW Publishing.

Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their daughter, Lily Maye. (source: http://chizinepub.com/books/point-hollow)


Gef: Would you say Point Hollow fits in with the notion of New England horror, or were you aiming for something further from the beaten path of American gothic tales?

Rio: Point Hollow is set in the Hudson Valley, in upstate New York, which isn’t too far from New England. I lived there for a couple of years. It’s a beautiful part of the country: mountains, lakes, rivers, punctuated with  towns, some creepy, some picturesque, but all diverse. Certainly the geography inspired the story. And in truth, I wasn’t aiming for anything when I wrote it, other than to deliver a character-rich dark thriller set in a picturesque (but sinister) town in the Hudson Valley. I was drawn by the idea of something being so beautiful, but so broken.

Gef: What was the impetus behind this book?

Rio: Again, that idea of something sinister lurking beneath the surface. This is explored in fiction frequently, usually in regard to character, but I really wanted to explore it with this town, Point Hollow, which has some very dark secrets. I imagine tourists taking photos and buying souvenirs, remarking on Point Hollow’s beauty, while all the time blissfully unaware of the terrible things that have happened there in the past—things that can shape a town, and the people living in it.

Also, I’ve moved around a lot in my life. Nowhere really feels like home to me, you know? I guess the closest I have to a hometown would be High Wycombe in the UK, where I lived until I was ten years old. I go back very rarely, but when I do its like connecting with ghosts. I see myself as a boy, I see my neighbors, and the kids I used to kick around with. The whole town is full of ghosts—of memories. It’s melancholic and powerful, and I was driven to tap into that in Point Hollow.

Gef: There seems to be a bit of the "you can never go home again" threaded through Point Hollow, with a character returning after being away for a quarter-century. Is that something you wanted to look at with this book, or is this character serve more as your in-road to this strange little town and its deep, dark secrets?

Rio: Touching on my previous answer, the “returning home” theme was one of the novel’s driving forces, but yeah, it was also the perfect in-road to Point Hollow and its terrible darkness. Writing this novel, I played with the idea that so much can change in a quarter of a century, and so much can stay the same. I find both concepts to be quite unsettling.

Gef: How influential has smalltown folklore played on your writing, particularly the horror-tinged works, whether it be American, Canadian, or even British? Does Canada have its own flavor of horror do you find, or are we more likely to look south of the border for our scares?

Rio: I’ve always enjoyed small town horror stories. Again, it’s the appeal of that sinister element existing beneath the surface, and this is certainly something that has inspired my work over the years. Point Hollow, obviously, but also stories like “Mama Fish” and “Outside Heavenly.” I guess I like the idea of visiting somewhere … just so long as leaving is always an option.

As for Canadian horror … this is a golden age, no doubt about it. Canada is blessed with so many fabulous horror writers: Michael Rowe, Gemma Files, David Nickle, Helen Marshall, Ian Rogers, Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson) to name but a few. I could go on. And they’re all incredible—comfortably among the best in the genre.

I’m not sure that the flavor of Canadian horror goes deeply beyond its nuances of region and dialect. At its core, horror is universal. A zombie by any other name is still a zombie.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Rio: I always answer this question by saying Graham Greene, Peter Straub, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson … and yeah, they’re all among my major influences. But on this occasion, I’d also like to point out some contemporary writers whose work I admire. I’ll begin with everybody I mentioned in the previous answer, and add Sarah Pinborough, Benjamin Percy, Kelly Braffet, Alison Littlewood, David Mitchell, Gillian Flynn, Lauren Beukes, Owen King. There are more, and of course my mind is drawing a classic blank right now, but yeah, these are great writers, and great writing will always inspire and influence me.

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

Rio: Outside of a host of wonderful writers doing outstanding work, and editors like Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones, and Johnny Mains, there are a handful of amazing small presses that truly understand the genre, and do so much to shine a light on gifted writers who might not get the same attention with a bigger press.

Gef: Is there any kind of gear shift in your approach when writing a novel like this compared to your previous publication with Chizine, Westlake Soul?

Rio: Not really. I follow the story, the voice. A gear shift assumes I have some control, when really I have very little. Quite often I’m just along for the ride.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Rio: You know, I honestly can’t think of any particularly bad advice I’ve received. The writers I surround myself with are good people, professional throughout. As for advice I wish would go away ... man, I don’t know. If it’s good advice, and it helps and inspires others, it can stick around as long as it wants to.

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

Rio: I don’t know if it would be considered a guilty pleasure, but videogames are a good way for me to wind down. Anything from mindless button mashing to involved, story-based games like The Last of Us (which is brilliant, by the way). And hey, I love the Texas Chainsaw movies, even the really bad ones. I can actually tolerate shitty horror movies quite well, but I won’t waste my time with bad fiction.

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

Rio: I just delivered my new novel for St. Martin’s Press. It’s a thriller, not a horror, and I’m exceptionally pleased with it. We’re still playing with titles at the moment, so I can’t even tell you what it’s called, but I expect it to be out in the early part of 2017. Other than that, I have a short story called “Separator” in Chris Golden’s upcoming vampire anthology SEIZE THE NIGHT, and there’s something potentially exciting in the works that I apple-solutely cannot talk about.  Gotta see how that shakes out. But right now, I’m going to take a week or so off after going flat-out on my novel for so long, then it’ll be on to the next book for St. Martin’s Press.

Folks can check out my website for details as they emerge: www.rioyouers.com. I can also be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rio_youers