Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Martyn V. Halm had some questions for me

The writing process interview questions below are being passed around from writer to writer in a sort of chain-letter fashion (but without the threats of bad luck). A gentleman writer by the name of Martyn V. Halm (The Amsterdam Assassin Series) passed these questions on to me to answer on my blog. (You can read his answers to these same questions here.) And I've tagged author Jason Parent (What Hides Within) to continue this cycle of abuse.

The Questions & Answers:

What am I working on?

I'm working on getting my next horror novella, The Hanover Block, out the door. I'm also revising an unruly SF epic, finishing a short story, starting another short piece, and I'm in the woolgathering phase for what I think of as a big, gory fantasy/horror/adventure story.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I write in three genres, science-fiction, fantasy, and horror.  The only real, appreciable, difference between the work I'm doing and the work done by others is that all the genre tropes are all mashed up and filtered through my brain (not theirs) before they make it into the word processor. It's up to readers to decide whether or not my perspective is unique and interesting enough for them to keep reading my work.

(Yes, I fully realize that the above is a non-answer.)

Why do I write what I do?

My wife wants to know the answer to this, too. She asks me why I mainly write stories about revolting things, creepy people, and disturbing encounters. The best answer I've come up with is this: I think it's funny. That's not a very satisfying answer, I know.

And it also appears that I'm not a good judge of exactly how, uh, questionable my own work can be. I handed my wife a short story recently that I presented as possibly being well-suited for a YA market. Her response was basically, "There is nothing in this story that would be appropriate for a young adult audience. What is wrong with you?"

I don't know. I just don't know.

How does my writing process work?

An idea, a concept, comes to me (from where, I do not know), and I have to build a story around it. The concept gathers story pieces in my head over a long period of time, collecting details, characters, scenes, and set pieces. When the story has a clear end in sight, I finally get to the point where I start writing stuff down.

I'll make some notes, so as not to forget certain things, but I'm not an outliner. I generally have the sense of the story when I start writing. How it starts and ends is usually pretty firm. But how I get from the beginning to the end is wide open usually, with maybe just a few key scenes, pivot points, worked out.

For longer pieces, I'll outline a few chapters ahead and take notes on how things in earlier chapters should be retconned to fit in with the shiny new things I've introduced later in the story. Overall, it's a pretty messy affair.

Once it's all written out, I let it sit for quite some time, so that I can come back to it for editing with fresh eyes. Then I hack it up relentlessly. I rarely add things to a story after it's written, new scenes and whatnot. I'm one of those writers who is always looking for something to take out, ways to make things leaner, quicker, and more precise. And I'm sure one day I'll succeed in this regard.

All right, interview over.

As I mentioned above, the writer who will be answering these dreadful questions on his blog next is Jason Parent. Jason is the author of the darkly humorous horror novel What Hides Within. His short fiction has appeared in the charity anthology Of Words and Water and in Sanitarium Magazine. You can learn more about him at his home on the web.

Dutch author Martyn V. Halm is the creator of the singular Katla Sieltjes, the deadly female assassin of his Amsterdam Assassin Series of novels and short stories. If you're interested in meticulously researched and fast-paced thrillers, then I recommend you grab the Katla KillFile stories (Locked Room, Microchip Murder) to get a taste of Halm's work. They're available as free downloads on Amazon.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Courtney Wells had some questions for me (and 3 other writers)

Courtney Wells:
Creator of creepy puppet people?
Courttney Wells, who I believe has a novel coming out about creepy puppet people(?), has launched a new book blog called Libra Obscura. One of the regular features she'll be running is The four/5/XX (four different authors/5 identical questions/XX unique answers). And it looks like I got in on its maiden voyage.

I share the five interview questions with authors Mark Phillips (Beneath the Mask of Sanity), Lexi Dare, (The Girl with Wings), and H. Anne Henry (Once Broken). We all write in different genres, which keeps things interesting, I think.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Write a Novel that Spits in Hollywood's Face

Henry Martin, author of Escaping Barcelona (among many others), asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I'm not sure why he asked me back after the last time he had me over to talk about reviewing books on Goodreads. It's not like we have much overlap as far as readership goes. He writes literary fiction, and I live on Grub Street.

So, after much hemming and hawing, I relented and came up with this little editorial.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Drive-In 3 by Joe R. Lansdale

I'd say that this third and final installment of The Drive-In Trilogy was the best, as the third in any trilogy should be. Although, unlike the first two installments, it did lack a colorful central villain. We are given a baddie named Bjoe, but he's not really in the same category as The Popcorn King and Popalong Cassidy. He's more mundane. But I would argue that the real villain in this final volume is the Drive-In world itself. This is more of a man against an uncaring, insane universe type of story than a take down the bad guy story. And it was excellent.

With The Drive-In series, Lansdale expertly combines elements of horror, adventure, science-fiction, absurdism, social satire, and post-apocalyptic survival. And running throughout there is a deep thread of dark, dark humor that I greatly appreciated.

I think readers' opinions will be divided on how Lansdale wraps this whole crazy thing up. Some will hate the ending, some will love it. I doubt many would fall anywhere in between. I loved it. Although the way things worked themselves out wasn't entirely unexpected, it was unexpectedly thought-provoking. Suddenly, the laughter just stops, and you're left stunned, unpacking an infinite series of Russian nesting dolls fashioned out of cruelty, suffering, and abuse.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Drive-In 2 by Joe R. Lansdale

You know, I'm pretty sure I liked this one a smidgen more than the first one. The scope expanded and the dark humor got even darker and funnier. I was somewhat reluctant to pick this one up right away because the end of the first book seemed to hint that this one might be a The Lost World pastiche. I don't dislike dinosaurs, but they really aren't a selling point for me. Now, there are dinosaurs in The Drive-In 2, but in no way are they the focus. They're not even a huge threat and kind of keep their distance for the most part. It's almost as if Lansdale changed his mind about the second book featuring dinosaurs between the writing of book 1 and book 2, which is fine by me. I'd certainly rather have another great villain like Popalong Cassidy any day.

Oh, and there is some great imagery in this book and a few scenes that really had me laughing out loud (not just the usual quick exhalation through the nostrils kind of thing). Lansdale's got great comic timing.

I'll be picking up The Drive-In 3 in the near future.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Clive Barker's First Tales

This book contains a short story and a short children's fantasy novel written by Clive Barker when he was around seventeen years old. I went into this knowing that I'd be reading juvenilia, knowing that I likely wouldn't like this very much. I was right. I didn't. I read this because it was written by Clive Barker. I'm a Barker completist and I'd recommend this only to other Barker completists.

"The Wood on the Hill" is a simplistic fairy tale. A snotty aristocratic woman is warned that bad things will happen if she goes through with her plan to hold a ball in some ancient woods. She ignores the warnings and bad things happen. That's it. And the bad things that happen really aren't that interesting.

The Candle in the Cloud is pretty much just a condensed and watered-down cross between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings. Three kids are transported to a fantasy world and soon learn that they are the only ones who can save the world by transporting a magical artifact to a deep dark pit.

I expected to be disappointed by these stories. I read them to see if I could find a spark of Barker's genius in his early works, and I was able see some of that, just a glimpse near the end of The Candle in the Cloud. And, truthfully, few writers wrote anything half as good at seventeen.

No, the thing that really disappoints me about Clive Barker's First Tales was a bit more unexpected; the fact that the publisher didn't bother to clean the manuscript up prior to publication. This book was poorly proofed. If they'd printed a disclaimer at the beginning of the book stating that they wanted to show these early works untouched and raw, so as not to tamper with the curiosities presented therein, I might have given them a pass. But they posted no such disclaimer, and they put out a fairly shoddy product.

In addition, the product description for this work is misleading. Crossroad Press claims that The Candle in the Cloud is "a novella of dark fantasy" when clearly it is fucking not. Dark fantasy and children's fantasy are two very different things. It's a matter of public record that Barker wrote this book for children. To try to peddle this as dark fantasy is pretty shitty.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Big Trouble in Little Ass by Wol-vriey

Calling for a revision of the MMPI-2-RF!

I think it's possible that one day a psychiatrist will give a name to the peculiar disease of the mind that makes one predisposed to truly enjoy Wol-vriey's books. Until then, I'll just have to live knowing that I'm afflicted with an as-yet-to-be-named mental disorder that, if I had to guess, impacts about 0.001 percent of the human population. But I don't mind, really.

Really, I don't.

And it's not like I'm looking for a cure.

Here's a little test to see if maybe you're a sufferer of this rare mental illness.

Would you like to read a book that features:

-strange, and yet quite useful, genital mutations?
-horrible puns?
-taboo sexual practices which have magical healing properties?
-impaling, decapitation, and dismemberment (all played for laughs)?
-cringe-worthy dialog written in the most insulting dialect imaginable?
-sex scenes that raise interesting philosophical questions on the subject of bestiality in fantastic literature?

If you answered 'yes' to ALL of the above, then you and I likely suffer from the same mental disorder, and you should read this book.

To those who answered 'no' to ANY of the above: you've been warned.

Note: I received a sticky electronic copy of this filthy book from this smutty author in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher

The first third of this book read like a textbook example of how to get the hooks into your reader. Every scene, from the very first, slides a new hook under the skin and you've just gotta keep reading to find out 'what's really going on.' Unfortunately, for me, once I found out what was really going on, I was less than thrilled about it.

But I want to be clear about this. You see, at about the halfway mark, I found out that supernatural entities that I personally don't enjoy reading about are major players, and I was pretty let down. You might like stories involving this particular type of supernatural entity, many people do. If so, you might really go for what Mr. Christopher has delivered here.

But my supernatural entity bias isn't really the only problem I had with this book. There were two more major things that detracted from my overall enjoyment:

1) The magic rules in this world weren't clearly defined, and it came off as characters could just 'magic' themselves out of tough situations.

2) All of the characters but one seemed to have zero agency Intentional? Sure. Just look at the cover. But, still. And the one character who did have control over his own fate adopted a surfer dude persona that I didn't find cute, ironic, or funny.

I wanted to like this book more than I did (and to be clear, I didn't hate it by any stretch). It does contain a lot of things that I do like in a story: a circus/carnival, entertaining villains, interesting imagery, cool set pieces, and, best of all, solid writing.

After reading Hang Wire, I think Adam Christopher is more than capable of producing a book that I'll really enjoy. Unfortunately, this was probably just not the right entry point into his writing--for me.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Today is Roger Corman's 88th birthday! For those who don't know, Corman is the mastermind director/producer behind such cult film classics as Suburbia, Deathrace 2000, Piranha, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Women in Cages, among literally hundreds of others (35 directed, 385 produced).

To honor this giant of B-movie madness, I've decided to offer my short story "IT CAME FROM HELL AND SMASHED THE ANGELS" starting today as a free download. This story originally appeared last year in the anthology TWO: The 2nd Annual Stupefying Stories Horror Special and was inspired by the films of Roger Corman.

Here's what the story's about:

Thanks to his big ugly mug, Ben Coburn always played the heavy in Hollywood. Yeah, his name was in the credits of a bunch of low-budget B-movie horror shows, but at least he could say he was in the movies.
That was a long time ago.

Now Ben sits alone in a trailer park listening to an old married couple across the way argue about money, just nursing a beer, waiting for something to happen.

But nothing ever happens. That pisses him off.

No, Big Ben Coburn isn't going to wait around anymore. He jumps on his motorcycle and tears off into the night.

Intent on escaping into a new life, he races past a field of scarecrows, barreling headlong down the highway toward a blazing inferno and a bottomless pit.

Available in Mobi (Kindle) & ePub (Nook) formats.

No account required to download. You will be asked to enter an e-mail address in order to proceed to the download page, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a valid e-mail address.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Taking Jezebel by Patrick Kelly

"It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't."

That's a quote from this article by screenwriter Josh Olson. (The spirit of that article has nothing to do with this review, by the way.) Upon starting Taking Jezebel it was readily apparent that Patrick Kelly can write, and very well. But the deeper I got into the book, the more I noticed that Kelly is a writer who also needs to learn how to kill his darlings. There were many pet phrases--while sometimes lovely--that really needed to be exterminated with extreme prejudice. For example:

The [batwing] doors swung--violently, at first--then slowly sank back into place, losing their momentum, and settling against one another like quarreling lovers who were finally ready to admit their unremitting interdependence.

Lavishing this much attention on a minor detail imbues the action of doors swinging shut with undue significance. This sort of thing happens fairly often throughout Taking Jezebel, and there are action scenes that get muddied with this type of overblown description.

The above passage also illustrates another thing I, at times, found distracting about Kelly's writing. Sometimes--sometimes--his word choices are a bit iffy. The word 'sank' has no place in the sentence above. Nothing is sinking here. Nothing is doing anything like sinking here.

Overall, I liked Kelly's writing and I liked this book. There are three or four really cool narrative twists that honestly took me by surprise. He's not afraid to play with reader expectations. And I like that a lot. This had some great things going for it story-wise. Yes, there were a few things I didn't quite buy. One character escapes too easily from a situation. A major event is never adequately revisited or explained. Everything stops so that the villain can give the obligatory villain-speech at the end. However, the good far outweighs the not-so-good here.

This book has a variety of satisfying horror goodies crammed into it, and I look forward to reading whatever Mr. Kelly unleashes next.

Note: I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.