Friday, August 26, 2016

The Summer of Consequences Rolls On!

Rich over at The Horror Bookshelf just posted my first-ever interview, so if you're curious about my writing habits, the official word on what's coming next, and more about what you may see in the future (including some things that you won't have learned just from being a constant reader on this blog), make sure to check it out!

Keep watching for more to come on the Summer of Consequences tour, and if you haven't already, make sure to pick up a copy for yourself and see what all the rave reviews are about using the links on the side of this page!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Con By Psychos, For Psychos: A Review of Adam Cesare's The Con Season

I swear I'll get back to posting some other content here soon, but for now, I have another new review for you. This time up: Adam Cesare's latest, The Con Season.

I've known about this one for a little while, as it was one of the latest round of potentials in the Kindle Scout program (and one that I did nominate, to be fair), but after it missed its chance there, Cesare decided to go ahead and put it out himself. For that, I thank him.

The "Con" in the title refers to "conventions," a staple for any horror fan or for anyone who works in the horror field. Clarissa Lane is one of the later, She may have seen her glory days pass her by, but she's still out there, doing what she can all while fighting the effects that years of show business and the natural worries of aging are having on her. After well-meaning mismanagement leaves her dead broke, she ends up accepting an offer to be the Guest of Honor at a newly-launched horror convention that promises to be the most interactive experience fans could ever hope for.

As a huge fan of eighties slasher movies, I can definitely see how heavily they inspired this story, which is best described as a mash-up between Friday the 13th and My Name is Bruce. Without giving too much away, while the majority of the characters fit neatly into the roles you'd expect them to, it's this very sense of familiarity that makes the story so fun to start with. And while they don't all get that much "screen time", with only a couple of exceptions they're explored enough that you still find something to attach yourself to in them.

The villains here also feel all-too real in today's celebrity-obsessed culture, and I had to wonder at times if Cesare hadn't heard of something like this actually happening before, or if maybe his fellow convention-goers might want to keep a closer eye on him in the future. I did find it beautiful that there was no great motivation behind why they did what they did other than they could do it, and had the spare money to waste on doing it. It's quite possibly one of the most realistic motivations I've ever seen for a horror bad guy.

In a move that I personally found both irritating and genius, Cesare doesn't even let you off the hook at the end. While I'm sure he knows what the final outcome was, he leaves it up to the reader to figure out whether it's got the nice PG-13 horror ending, or the brutal and bloody unrated one. I have to wonder how many people who read this will go in either of those directions with it. I picked my ending; and whether it's the same as yours or not doesn't really matter. It adds a touch that makes the story personal to the reader without being overly vague, and I applaud that choice.

All in all, this was a fun, rip-roaring tear that evoked beautiful nostalgia for those bloody slasher days, all while feeling fresh and new. This isn't a story you've seen before, but it feels like one, which for me, was what made it worth the read to start with.

Kindle Scout doesn't know what they were missing.

4.5 / 5 stars

Get your copy of The Con Season from Amazon here!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Disney Movie That Never Was: A Review of Shane McKenzie's Pretty Pretty Princess

I've got an interesting one for you today. It's by a horror author, but it's not a horror novel. The only way I can think to label it is fantasy fairy tale musical strangeness; but that's not a bad thing. Here's my take on Shane McKenzie's newest, Pretty Pretty Princess.

I’ve read Shane McKenzie’s work before, but it’s been either horror or bizzaro. If that’s what you’re expecting, Pretty Pretty Princess, his latest from Blood Bound Books is not either of those, though there are some hints of them here. Instead, it’s a fairy tale, and as the cover says, it’s a twisted one.

Prince Francis was banished from his home for not being “manly” enough for his father. Now he travels the land with his best friend, the talking pig Gavin, spreading word about his movement, the Princes for Ethical Treatment of Princesses (or P.E.T.P for short). See, he’s tired of the kings and queens locking their daughters away in towers and caves and dungeons then sticking monsters outside to guard them in the hopes that some brave knight will come and save them, thereby inheriting both the princess and her kingdom. Francis believes the Princesses should be free to choose for themselves, and wants everyone else to come around to the same way of thinking.

Then he gets himself swept up in one of the very quests he thinks abhorrent, and winds up meeting Pretty, a Princess, who’s undergone the traditional abuse. His hope isn’t that he’ll become her brave knight, but rather that she’ll help him spread the word about his cause, and change the world in the process. Naturally, things don’t exactly go according to plan.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way up front: this book does not take itself seriously. If you need any proof of that, you need look no further than Francis’s penchant for falling into a “song trance” where he sings about whatever’s on his mind at the time. And it’s not just him; when a tavern full of brutish soldiers does the same, you immediately see where’s McKenzie’s going with this. And it’s brilliant.

Every fairy tale trope you can imagine is on proud display here, from the Prince who’s too good for his own good, to the snarky animal companion that talks, to the wicked fool of a prince who ends up being the antagonist, to a final battle fought between men, goblins, a dragon, unicorns, flies, rats, and ducks. There were many points where I had to put the Kindle down so I could wipe the tears from my eyes as I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, and felt safe doing so because I can’t imagine this was being played straight. When your tagline is “Disney on acid”, it’s kind of obvious where you’re going with it.

For all of that, the story is well-told, and the mental movie that played as I read was even animated in keeping with the theme. I don’t know about Disney on acid, but I can definitely see a bunch of disgruntled animators holed up in a room that reeks of pot smoke, hammering this out as a big middle finger to their bosses. And for the record: I would kill to see this as an animated feature one day. Just make sure to watch after the kids are in bed. No need to send them to therapy too soon!

All in all, this is the perfect thing to help you forget about your worries and stresses for a few hours, and left me hoping to see McKenzie do more in this strange style—or even world—sometime in the future!

5/5 Stars

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer of Consequences - Review at The Horror Bookshelf

As the Summer of Consequences tour keeps rolling along, today I have a new review from Rich over at the Horror Bookshelf, so be sure to check it out, and keep watching for more on the tour!

Another Reason to Stay Out of the Woods: A Review of Glenn Rolfe's Chasing Ghosts

I seem to be getting into a routine with reviews now, and have another fun one for you all: Glenn Rolfe's latest novella from Sinister Grin, Chasing Ghosts. Thanks to both Glenn and Erin over at Hook of a Book for including me on the publicity tour for this one, and for providing a copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion on it!

When I stop and think that a year ago I had only seen Glenn Rolfe’s name on a couple of books on the Samhain Horror website, I wish I’d taken a chance sooner. Now that I’ve managed to dig into his works, he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorites among the new generation of horror authors. His latest release from Sinister Grin Press, Chasing Ghosts, only helps cement that into place.

I knew I wanted to see what it was all about the second I saw that cover: it manages to be haunting without giving anything away for the plot, leaving the story as a blissful surprise.

Okay, so blissful is probably a bad word choice. Chasing Ghosts is a blistering, mile-a-minute ride into fear, desperation, and depravity.  Three boys out snooping in abandoned houses; a cheating husband and his devastated wife mourning the disappearance of their child; the husband’s mistress and the couple’s best friend; and a rock band playing a strange gig in a cabin in the woods.  These are the major players here, and as their paths begin to collide, they all learn there’s someone else out there, maybe several someones, folks who the town thought had vanished years ago.

I love the way Rolfe writes about small towns and the people who live in them. It keeps the story cozy and contained, and gives the reader a chance to really build up affection for the folks they’re reading about, even when the story’s not that long. And the people he has living and visiting in this town? Don't even think they're cookie-cutter. Every character on the pages is flawed in some way, just like us, all of them trying to make their way through life as best they can, even before they're thrust into the madness that ensues over the course of the tale. These are folks you could've had a beer with down at the local bar, or seen on the stage there, or - if you're not old enough to be going to bars - could've gone to school with. All of them immediately come to life in your mind, which makes the horrors they encounter all the more heart-wrenching as well.

The villains, the notorious Cobb family, are suitably creepy, with a definite throwback to the near-primitive maniacs found in Richard Laymon’s mountain novels or Jack Ketchum’s cannibalistic ones. Rolfe mentions both in his dedication for Chasing Ghosts, and once you read the sequences with these guys, you’ll feel that dedication was well-warranted.

If there’s a complaint to be had here, it’s that we don’t get enough about those villains. You can see the hints of backstory there, but we're only granted small doses of them and still know next to nothing about them when the story reaches its end.  I would have loved to see this be maybe fifty more pages dealing with the monsters, their history and sick motivations. That being said, if those extra pages were there, it would slow the pace considerably, taking away the “pedal to the floor” feel that keeps you turning the pages until there’s no more to turn, so I can respect the balancing act that went into giving us what we needed about them, and keeping the story moving.

Overall, Chasing Ghosts was a fun way to kill a couple of hours, and the hints at a possible prequel (and sequel, maybe?) made me anxious to see what else Glenn has in store for this already troubled little town. Definitely pick up a copy and see for yourself; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

4 / 5 stars.

Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #ChasingGhosts #Rolfed #WoodsPeople

Chasing Ghosts, Synopsis
  • ·         File Size: 340 KB
  • ·         Print Length: 102 pages
  • ·         Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • ·         Publisher: Sinister Grin Press (August 1, 2016)
  • ·         Publication Date: August 1, 2016

The Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.
Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.
Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.
Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram's Bridge, Boom Town, Things We Fear, and the forthcoming, Chasing Ghosts; the short fiction collection, Slush; and the novels, The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain.
His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released in March 2016.
Praise for Glenn Rolfe
Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I’ve encountered in recent years.” — Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh
“Glenn Rolfe’s new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die).” — Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage

 “Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I’ve read about in recent times.” — Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid

“Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well.” — Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel
“There is a definite old school feel about this novella (Things We Fear). It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax.” -Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror
Purchase Links

Also available in paperback!

Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Chasing Ghosts or feature Glenn Rolfe, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Why Horror?" - The Question Answered

One of the questions I’m often asked when people find out what I do is one I’m sure everyone working in this genre has had posed to them at some time or another: why horror? Invariably, the question comes with one or two facial expressions as well, and there’s very little wiggle room between them. Either we get a look of genuine and excited curiosity, or one of abject disgust and judgment. I’m going to attempt to answer that question here, if for no other reason so that when I get asked again, I can just point them to this post and call it a day.

First, let me say what this post isn’t.  This is not to be taken as me defending myself for anything, mainly because I don’t see anything I need to defend myself for. While I don’t discuss it much, I am a spiritual and religious person, and therefore the only person to my mind that I might need to defend myself to is God, and thanks to Ron Kelly, who went through the same thing and offered me some advice and guidance in that regard, I believe that He and I are good on this.

On that topic, this is also not going to be a religious-based argument on the merits or failings of writing horror. Maybe the time will come when I do make that post, maybe it won’t, but this ain’t it.

What it should be considered as is my personal answer to the question of why I write horror. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now that we have that out of the way….

For me, there are two reasons why I write in this genre, one fairly simple and straightforward, the other not so much. Let’s deal with the easier one first.

Stephen King once famously said that we make up horrors to help us deal with the real ones, and never more has this been evident than now. Take a moment and scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, or turn on your favorite cable news channel and spend a moment or two reading the headline ticker. You don’t need to take long, just five minutes should be enough. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You back? Good. Now let me take a guess at what you saw.

Election coverage is generally first: Hillary supporters calling Trump a demagogue racist bigot, Trump supporters calling Hillary a crooked lying establishment crony, and if the receiving party doesn’t like what the originating party has to say, the receiving party is welcome to unfriend or block them. Racial tensions in the country at levels that rival pre-Civil Rights Movement days, and it’s all Trump / Obama’s fault. All guns should be banned. This gun is mine, you can’t take it away. That Confederate flag is racist, take it down. This Confederate flag is mine, you can’t take it away. You can’t use that particular bathroom. Your way of life and perceptions of it are wrong, and my thoughts are the only ones that are valid. You can’t say that, someone might get offended. Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, No Lives Matter (thank you, Nihilists).

Then there’s the harder stuff: terrorists wreaking havoc, blowing something up somewhere, or decapitating someone on live video posted to the internet. North Korea declares war on the US because we targeted their precious supreme leader for sanctions over human rights issues. This many dead here, that many dead there, one kid killed themselves because of bullying, while another decided psychopathy was cool and slit another kid’s throat for no reason at all.

The bottom line is that the world is now a scary place to live, and the internet’s filled with anger and hate directed not at the targets that deserve it, but the people who should be standing side by side against those things. Somewhere, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley must be shaking their heads.

If, like myself, you try to be a generally positive person, it can quickly become overwhelming.

Writing—to a writer, at least—is a form of escapism just like reading or television or movies or video games. Is it any wonder, with the things we’re bombarded with on a daily basis, that we also use it to try and make sense of the insanity and horror all around us?

I feel I should also point out that not everything’s bad all the time. I’ve read posts on Facebook, and seen news stories on television or in the paper that made me laugh, or generally just acted as a ray of light among the darkness. Ironically enough, many of those are from fellow horror writers (looking at you and your Twitter feed, Somer Canon, and your constant words of encouragement, Jaime Johnesee), so take from that what you will.

The second reason I write horror is a little harder to explain, but I’m going to try. The best way I can think to do it is to ask a question in return:

Why do you think I have a choice?

Fiction writers are a strange breed. We don’t see the world the same as you, because we can’t help but witness events through our own unique creative lenses. Here’s an example:

You see a man and woman, sitting close, smiling at one another atop a hill, trees swaying gently in the breeze behind them. This is all the spark a writer needs for a scene. The thriller writer knows they’re from opposing governments, and one or both of them are probably selling secrets. The suspense writer knows one of them is a criminal on the run. The romance writer knows this is only the beginning of a whirlwind relationship that will be fraught with tragedy before they live happily ever after. The fantasy writer sees the dragon swooping down at them. The sci-fi writer sees the UFO hovering above, about to abduct them for experimentation. And the horror writer sees the maniac creeping up through the woods, about to slaughter them.

I’m generalizing, of course, but that didn’t stop the fact that I saw the maniac first before I wrote the other possibilities.

I grew up watching reruns of the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Tales from the Dark Side. I also loved the old fifties Hammer horror stuff that occasionally ran on TV, if I was really lucky. I read King, and Koontz, and Barker. As I got older, my tastes shifted. I enjoyed the slasher movies not for the story, but for the magic of “how did they do that?” I was an only child, so books were my constant companions, the splatterpunks and Tolkien, and the aforementioned Orwell and Huxley, and countless more. I loved ghost stories around the campfire, and “real” hauntings and the like. When I got older and the bug hit me to start making up my own stories, what else was I going to write?

Could I write other stuff, different genres? Sure. Do I think it would be as good or as rewarding to me? No, because my heart wouldn’t be in it. I’d be doing it to please someone other than myself, and that’s all. One of the best rules I ever heard when it came to this craft is “write the books you want to read”. That’s all I’m doing, for good or for ill.

And as to that look we get when the question comes up? Look, I get it that horror’s not for everyone. I’m not pushing you to read it. All I’m saying is don’t judge us by what we write. This community is one of the most welcoming I’ve ever seen anywhere, and to a person the other authors and publishers and publicists and the like I’ve interacted with have been nothing but open, helpful, and encouraging. To me, that makes them good people, and I’m proud to be numbered among them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and deal with some of today’s headlines in my own special way, then look at funny nerd memes until it’s time for bed.