Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer of Consequences: Review at Horror Maiden's Book Reviews

Thanks to Angela over at Horror Maiden's for this awesome review of Consequences as a part of the #SummerOfConsequences publicity tour!

Keep checking back for more stops as the tour rolls on throughout the summer, and if you haven't already, make sure to grab your copy of Consequences using the links at the side of the page!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

From the Strangest Place Comes... Strangeness

Most people who know or meet a writer ask the same question at some time or another. Most writers have heard the question, and either welcome it or shake their head at it. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground to it, so we do our best to come up with an answer that sounds suitably literary or humorous, or sometimes actually have an answer because it was asked so specifically that it's a slam dunk.

"Where did you get the idea for [insert story here]?"

Generally speaking, the answer is usually the same, even if the specifics vary: something just clicked in our mind and we suddenly felt the urge to write about it. And sometimes, on the surface, the thing that clicked is so simplistic or so asinine that the person who asked the question leaves with serious concerns about our mental stability.

I'll admit, sometimes it seems like a valid concern. Here's one example.

I've wanted to do a "creature feature" for a while now. The classics have been done to death, and honestly, I just can't come up with a new idea for them, so things like vampires and werewolves and zombies are out, as are legendary things like mummies and Bigfoot, and even the Loch Ness Monster. So the idea went on the mental shelf with all the other things I'd like to write about at some point until such time as I could find my monster.

Well, I found it last night. And it grew out of a joke.

Wednesday nights are "friend nights" where we all gather and play whatever tabletop roleplaying game is up in the rotation. We just finished D&D, and now I'm running a horror-themed game (go figure). Last night, however, was just a chance to hang out and catch up. One of my friends is also trying his hand at writing, so naturally the conversation ended up going in that direction. He mentioned that once he accepted that he himself was from the south, and that his story and main character were southern, the story flowed better. Accept the southern roots, as it were. One aspect clicked in my head, too, but I didn't recognize it at the time.

I mentioned my desire for the creature feature, and we discussed that a bit. He mentioned how hilarious it would be if the killer was a giant hybrid catfish-man or something, barb moustache and all. We all laughed and moved on. Then I see the kids are watching some show on television about catfish and hear they can survive up to 30 minutes out of water. Then I discover that those fish you hear about swimming up into a man's... manhood... are part of the catfish family.

I can take a hint. Besides, what's more southern than catfish?

An idea clicked, so next up on my worktable, as soon as I finish Justicar, I'll be doing my creature feature. My own "B-Novel".

If you ever find yourself down south, beware. Mudcat lives!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Rise of the B-Novels? - A Review of The Sludge by David Bernstein

The second I saw the cover for this one, I knew I wanted to read it, so without further ado, here's my review of David Bernstein's The Sludge.

Note: I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review, but that in no way affected my thoughts on it.

When I first saw the cover to David Bernstein’s newest, The Sludge, I was immediately transported back to the late eighties, browsing the shelves at the local video store, smiling at the covers for all those B-movies that were my main source of horror sustenance at the time. I’d made it through the classics, the slasher fare, and even some stuff that could be barely be called horror. But it was the B-movies that always pulled me back time and again. Needless to say, I was excited for this one, but I was also afraid that once my expectations were set, I’d end up disappointed.

I shouldn’t have worried.

From the first chapter, where toxic waste gets illegally dumped into a remote lake, I knew I was in for one of those B-movie rides that I couldn’t get enough of. Bernstein writes with a visual flair that made everything play out on the silver screen in my head, even down to the grain that seemed to always drift through those types of movies.

Even the characters were right out of a B-movie, from the bank-robbing brothers to the four young adults out for a hike in the woods. When the monster makes its appearance, the description was straight out of a Troma movie, which, for me, just added to the enjoyment.

Being a novella, there’s not a lot of page real estate with which to build and tell the story, but Bernstein does an admirable job of it nonetheless. One or two scenes felt a bit rushed, and the way the relationship between the brothers is built up may seem to go on a little longer than is absolutely necessary, but even this adds to the low-budget feel that made the story so enjoyable in the first place.

If you want a throw-back to those wonderful B-movies from the eighties, without any of the descent into pure camp that sometimes accompanied them, The Sludge reads like a love letter to them, all while standing on its own merits as well. If you’ve never read his work, this is a wonderful sampler to start with. If you have read something else he’s done, you already know what you’re in for: a fun romp into darkness. Just watch out for the buckets of fake blood that might get thrown your way from off-camera.

4.5/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Serving Up The Hard Questions: A Review of Vicki Beautiful

In case you haven't noticed, I've been trying to catch up on my "To Read" pile in the last few weeks, and there's just been so much good stuff in there I've felt compelled to share it with anyone who cares to listen (or read, as the case may be). To that end, here's my review of Somer Canon's debut novella, Vicki Beautiful.

We’ve all had friends we claimed we’d help hide a body before. It’s one of those clichĂ©s that never seems to go away, no matter what else changes from generation to generation. But when the chips are down, how far are we really willing to go for those friends? Maybe we really would help them move a body, but what if the request is of a more… personal nature?

This is the question at the center of Somer Canon’s debut novella Vicki Beautiful, and it’s one that I found myself thinking about long after I’d finished it. It’s the eponymous Vicki’s fortieth birthday, and her two lifelong friends have arrived for dinner and drinks and a night of celebration. But there’s a dark cloud hanging over the night: the cancer everyone thought Vicki had beaten has returned, so this is a celebration of her final birthday, not just the big 4-0. By morning, Vicki is gone, and her last request sends her friends on a slow spiral into pure, unadulterated madness.

More than that, I don’t want to say. That would be giving it away, and this is definitely something you want to experience for yourself to get the full impact. Suffice it to say, Vicki asks something of her friends that I don’t know if I could comply with, were I in their shoes. It’s been nearly two weeks since I finished Vicki Beautiful, and I still don’t know what I would do with that request.

And that, to me, is the core of what elevates something above its genre and turns it into unquestionable art: I left the book, but it didn’t leave me. That question’s the story poses has been gnawing at me ever since it was first revealed. More telling, it’s a question I found myself seriously considering. I’m a person who’s impatiently patient; if a question comes up, I want the answer as soon as possible, and will allocate a lot of brain power to coming up with that answer. That it’s taken this long and I don’t have one says that what on the surface seems to be a simple—if twisted—premise ended up being much, much more than that.

Beyond the lingering effect, the story is well-crafted. The relationship between the three friends leaps off the pages, and is instantly believable. Their reactions are likewise authentic, and uncertain, just as I’m sure mine would be in that same situation. Make no mistake, though: this is not some fluffy bunny story here. It is dark, and disturbing, and quite uncomfortable to see unfold. You’ll want to put it down, to try and escape, but you won’t be able to. You’ll have to know what happens next, how far things will go.

The only real complaint I found with the story was the ease in which the main characters were able to get the outside help they needed to pull off Vicki’s final wish. Granted, the given motivation of lots of money does, unfortunately, seem all to possible in this day and age, but considering the distaste one notable supporting character shows to what they’ve been asked to do, it still seems just a bit implausible. That said, it’s only one relatively small and minor part of the much bigger and exceptional whole that makes up this strange morality play.

After reading some of Somer Canon’s tweets, I knew she was my kind of twisted. After reading this, I know it without a doubt. Vicki Beautiful is… well, beautifully done. I cannot wait to see what this “mini-van revving soccer mom” serves up next; I just hope she’s not offended if I think twice before I eat it.

4.5/5 Stars

Monday, July 11, 2016

Officially Underway!

I'm sure you noticed the wonderful graphic provided by my publicist, Erin Al-Mehairi from Hook of a Book, on the previous post. Well, now there's an official tour page posted as well. You can check it out over at the Hook of a Book website. Also, feel free to check out the Publicity page above for the confirmed dates as well.

If you want to follow along on Facebook and Twitter, just watch for and use the hashtags #Consequences or #SummerofConsequences. If you'd like to be a part of the tour, offering a review or hosting a guest article, or whatever you think would help, make sure to email Erin at and put "Consequences Publicity Request" in the subject line.

Up next, I'll have a guest article up at Shane D. Keene's Shotgun Logic (Tuesday, 7/12), followed by a review from Angela over at Horror Maiden's Reviews on the 29th, so be sure to check them out, and watch for more awesomeness to come as the Summer of Consequences tour continues!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer of Consequences: Review at The Haunted Reading Room / Mallory Heart Reviews

The Summer of Consequences publicity tour continues! Thanks to Mallory Heart Reviews / The Haunted Reading Room for this awesome 5 star review for Consequences!

"A well-written, well-executed, well-played novel, a horror-thriller, coming-of-age, first-love-blossoming, rural redneck insanity, CONSEQUENCES is a biting, gory, thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride in which the suspense never lets up."
Check out the full review here, and be sure to keep checking back for more dates on the Summer of Consequences!

Also, thanks to Erin over at Hook of a Book for the awesome tour graphic!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Horror / Western Masterpiece

I seem to be doing a lot of book reviews lately instead of making actual blog posts, but that's because there's not a lot to report and I've been doing a lot of reading in my spare time. Today's a treat, though!

Here is my review of Kristopher Rufty's latest, Seven Buried Hill.

Kristopher Rufty has managed to find a distinctive voice when he writes. In the same way I can listen to a song and recognize Eric Clapton or Slash or Keith Richards as the guitarist, I can read an excerpt of writing and just know it’s Rufty. That distinct voice means whatever he puts out will most likely be good, which is why I tend to snatch it up within the first week of its release.

His latest, Seven Buried Hill, is no exception. I will admit to being curious and slightly worried once I realized that it would be a western-themed horror novel, and wondered if the setting would prohibit the signature Rufty style from shining through. Once I finished it, I was pleased to discover my worries were completely unfounded.

Henry Hardin was an outlaw, once upon a time. The longer he did it, the more he realized how much he was risking his life, so he’s out of the business, trying to take honest jobs for a change to reform his ways. Catherine Dalton is heiress to one of the largest tobacco plantations in North Carolina. When her father goes missing and the law won’t help her, she turns to Hardin for help. With his “boys”, Red, Pete, Drippy, and Charlie, Catherine herself, and Catherine’s effeminate fiancĂ© Everett, the posse heads out looking for Papa Dalton. Unfortunately, they find something else, something worse, something that not all of them will survive.

The story owes as much to The Hills Have Eyes as it does to The Unforgiven, or even established horror westerns like Bone Tomahawk. The tone actually feels like the old west, even though it was set in the east. Thankfully, Rufty avoids the stereotype of making Indians the bad guys, and even shows a bit of acceptance through some of the characters for the Native Americans and their way of life. And the moments of tension—of which there are many—are suitably gripping and kept me turning the pages.

Henry and his boys are well crafted, with distinct personalities that shine through on the page. Catherine seems at first like the cookie-cutter “girl trying to prove herself in a man’s world”, then you get to go a little deeper into her thoughts and realize that she’s considerably more faceted than you first assume. Hardin himself, who could easily fall into another tried and true stereotype, manages to show real depth of character as he tries to maintain his hardened exterior while falling under Catherine’s charms.

In fact, if there’s one character here who seemed a bit under-developed, it was Charlie. He tended to wear his motivations on his sleeve, meaning the reader could see what was coming with him long 
before it actually happened. His fate was exceptionally satisfying, so this one was easily overlooked.

Where the story shines, though, is in the villains of the tale. They’re sick and twisted, make no mistake about that, but one can actually see the reasoning and logic behind why they act the way they do, even if there’s no question they went much too far with it. The sympathy they manage to evoke even made me wonder by the end whether I was wrong to feel nothing but sympathy for how things ended for them.

Overall, this is a shining example of Rufty at his best, weaving a story that sucks you in and makes you feel like you’re actually living it. It’s no accident that he’s one of my favorite modern horror authors, and a major influence on my own writing as well. If you haven’t picked it up yet, don’t hold back. Just prepare yourself for a thrill ride of a horror western as it plays across the screen of your imagination.

5/5 Stars