Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Review in Two Parts: Jonathan Janz's Witching Hour Theatre

Let me go ahead and get something out of the way right up front: this is going to be different from what I normally do with my reviews, but this is how inspiration works, so bear with me. I’m going to be talking about Jonathan Janz’s novella Witching Hour Theatre, which has just been re-released with some additional content and an essay for the afterword where he talks about some of his influences, his early writing development, Stephen King, and his wife. Since I’m one of those people who read books cover to cover, I read the essay as well, and realized that if I did this, it would be a review in two parts. For part one, I’m wearing my reader hat, and will talk about the story itself. For part two, I’m going to switch perspectives and put on my writer’s hat, and comment on the essay itself. If you’re just curious what I thought about the book, feel free to skip part two, but this was what I was inspired to say, so that’s how I’m compelled to do it.

First, the story itself.

Witching Hour Theatre is a story about Larry Wilson, a horror fan with low self-esteem who spends three nights a week at the local cinema, where they show a triple bill of horror movies at midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There’s a lot of inner monologue here, which is considerably more compelling than you might think at first glance. We get to know Larry well as he goes through the ritual of buying his ticket, getting his snacks, and settling into the experience the movies provide. The problem is that there’s real horror in the theater, and Larry’s real life gets more and more stressful and adventurous as the flickering images on the screen progress.

I enjoyed the interplay between Larry and the other recurring patrons, their shared bond forged by a love of horror movies—the worse, the better, in some cases. It is very true to what I’ve witnessed myself among the horror community and made the world that much more believable. Also, his interactions with Nichole, the girl at the concession stand, were brilliant, and reminded me of the time when I was single and would find a girl I liked and the trepidation that sometimes ensued when attempting to follow through with those feelings. How it all came together at the end was well-done, and had me on the edge of my seat as the third act—and even the epilogue—scrolled across my Kindle.

There’s some rough edges here, but as the foreword states, this was by design. This is a story from the very start of Janz’s career, and rather than rewrite it with all the knowledge and skill he’s gained since then, he chose to keep it the way it was. This turns out to be a brilliant decision, and one I’m sure was not reached lightly. The end result is seeing what makes a story good; namely, the story. Also, as a fan of Janz’s other works, it was interesting to see his growth in such clear-cut terms. This was by no means bad, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise. It’s just interesting to see, especially being a writer myself.

All in all, definitely pick this one up. It’s a fast read, but it more than achieved the goal of entertaining me for a while, and also had me smiling after I’d closed it when I thought back to the bits that I really liked.

You can grab a copy for yourself here.

And now, let me switch hats and talk a little about the essay and what I got from it as a writer.

While I’ll be the first to admit I’m still a babe in the woods when it comes to this whole “being a published writer” thing, I’ve still managed to come to several realizations since I started that no one tells you about when you first dip your toes into these waters. Primary among those discoveries was that there is a lot of self-doubt that comes along with it. Some people tend to think writers are needy, and constantly seeking some kind of validation, and there’s some truth to that, but it’s also been said that this is a lonely profession at times, and that is also true. When you sit down to write a story, it’s just you and the blank page before you—that’s it. So it’s natural to want someone to tell you that what you’re doing is worthwhile. It doesn’t even have to be direct encouragement; sometimes all it takes is to know that you’re not the only one who’s gone through this, and that it’s completely normal and natural to feel this way, no matter what stage of the game you’re in.

In the essay Janz includes as the afterword to Witching Hour Theatre, amusingly called “My Wife, Stephen King, and Witching Hour Theatre” (which he stresses should not be taken to mean that his wife is Stephen King), he talks about his influences and how he’s absorbed and analyzed them, his burgeoning desire to be a writer and the path he took to get where he is, and how his wife has supported him beyond all measure in his drive to see his work in print. He is open and candid as he discusses these topics, and whether it was his intent or not, it was this approach that made it feel as though he was speaking directly to me as I read it.

See, as it turns out, Jonathan Janz has experienced that same self-doubt. He is familiar with that feeling of nervousness and yes, sheer terror that accompanies handing a story you’ve just spent however long creating to someone—anyone—else and you wait to see if they tell you that you’ve created something worthwhile or that what you’ve typed up is best served lining a waste can. He has felt that frustration as you try to find your own unique voice and move past pale imitation of those other writers who’ve influenced and inspired you to try it yourself. For him, much of this is years in the past; for me, it’s considerably more recent.

Which is why it means so much to read this. While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Janz, or talking with him at length about this sometimes insane path we’re walking, he still reached out and patted me on the back and said “it’s okay, this is normal, we all feel this way, just keep pushing.” To me, this is what makes someone an influence, and a sure sign of someone who will leave a lasting impact on those who follow in his footsteps. As proof of this, there are only two others who managed the same feat through the written word alone: Stephen King, with On Writing, and Richard Laymon, with A Writer’s Tale.

I can’t say that Jonathan Janz is my biggest influence; that honor, as with many writers of my generation and before, belongs to “Uncle Steve”. But I can say that Janz has cemented himself among my stronger influences, and I can only hope to prove myself worthy of that one day.

Stephen King has been branded the “King of Horror Fiction”. I’m going to go on record and say that there is without any doubt a “Prince of Horror Fiction” as well.

His name is Jonathan Janz.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happy Birthday Vicki Beautiful

I am pleased to host a special announcement from Somer Canon, author of the wonderfully morbid Vicki Beautiful. See what she has to say, and be sure to check out the book as well! See my review for it here.

Congrats on six months of Vicki Beautiful, Somer!

Vicki Beautiful Celebrates Six Months with Giveaway. Have You Ate Dinner Yet?
By Somer Canon, Author

Do you know what happened on April 26, 2016? Yes, that was six months ago. Surprise! It was the day that my novella, Vicki Beautiful, launched.  Yay! It has been a wonderful six months wherein I was welcomed into an amazing community of writers, editors, reviewers, readers, and publicists.  Having my little story that barely made it to press be published has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life and to all of the people who have read, reviewed, and helped spread the word, I am eternally grateful.  Happily, 2017 will see Vicki Beautiful offered in print when it is republished so that it doesn’t disappear from the world just yet.  I hope it continues to be something that makes people question what, exactly, are they being served for dinner! *wink*

In honor of Vicki Beautiful’s six month birthday, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner! I hope you’ll enter but I also hope you might spread the word about my first novella to round out the year and gain it momentum for the next. I look forward to talking about the book a lot longer with you all.

You can enter the giveaway here on Rafflecopter! 

Be sure to come back and tweet each day for extra entries! Thank you! This giveaway will run through mid-November!

If you haven’t checked out the book, here are some of the reviews it received:

“Vicki Beautiful is a very solid, quite unnerving, and.. well… beautiful read. How far would you go to fulfill your lifelong friend’s last wishes?” – Zakk, The Eyes of Madness

“I wouldn’t call the unique direction Vicki Beautiful takes as scary, but it is a story that causes immense feelings of dread and shock. That is horror. I wasn’t expecting Vicki’s request, and had no idea what to expect from Canon from that point on. A lot of horror is predictable, you see certain aspects and angles coming a mile away, but occasionally we get a sneaky, delectable treat.” –Glenn Rolfe, Author of Blood and Rain

“I generally don’t get too squeamish when it comes to horror books as I have read just about every type of horror story imaginable, but this one definitely sent chills down my spine. I think what makes it such a great story and an unsettling slice of horror is that Canon does a great job of blending moments of normalcy into a completely bizarre situation.” –Rich, The Horror Bookshelf

“Beyond the fact it is a short read, the story twists your guts and makes you question a lot in the most extreme and unthinkable ways. I will say proudly though, Canon has such a twisted and bright future ahead with this being her first novella.” –Jay, Horror News Network

“A simple story, but all the more powerful for its simplicity. Four stars. The author has guts and skill.” –Outlaw Poet

Vicki Beautiful, Synopsis

One last taste of perfection…

Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.

Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.

A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…

Somer Canon, Biography

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of
being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.

Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website You can also connect with Somer on Twitter at @SomerM. 

Purchase Links

Want to Feature Somer Canon?

If you would like to conduct an interview with Somer Canon, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media:

Monday, October 24, 2016

NaNoWriMo: What Sleeps Beneath

I have decided this year to make a stab at the whole National Novel Writing Month project. Since I've been averaging a novel a month, I figure it's a pretty good thing to try to keep me motivated and have some fun with the process as well.

Image courtesy of

The novel I'm going with is tentatively called What Sleeps Beneath, and will be my "coming of age" tale. I don't have a synopsis as of yet, just a basic idea of what the story's going to be, but I will definitely be posting more about it as it develops. Of course, I won't actually be starting on it until November 1, so don't expect too many updates between now and then.

As to what this means for Stripped, which I've been working on now, that all depends on where I'm at when November 1 comes around. If I'm close enough, I'll work on both at the same time. If I'm not close to being done, I'll probably put it on hold until the end of November and focus on What Sleeps. We'll just have to wait and see.

So far, though, it seems like fun, so let's see how it goes!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

One Week: The (Not-So) Glamorous Life of an Indie Writer

Even for only having one book out, I've heard the fun comments: wondering why I have a day job still, or the ones that really set my blood boiling, that writing can't really be that hard. That kind of thing. So in the interest of showing just how glamorous and "easy" it is, here's how my week has gone so far:

Sunday: Work at the day job, so try to spend a little time with the family beforehand. That's tough, since I didn't get home until 1 AM from my shift the night before, and was enough of a glutton for punishment that I decided to write anyway. Not that it wasn't worth it, mind you. Just makes it tough to get up early. Get home from the day job at about 10:30 PM. Change clothes, grab some Scotch, head outside to write. Check Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads for anything going on and to wind down, end up in bed at around 3 AM.

Monday: Day job again, but did get to relax some beforehand. During the shift, have to deal with employees doing stupid things that won't be resolved tonight, and will drag on to the next day: something to look forward to (and yes, that's sarcasm). Get home at 10:30, Scotch and writing. The Scotch flows a little heavier this time, since I'm stressed. Answer some emails regarding something I'm working on (that will be revealed in a couple of weeks), set up to mail out a signed copy of Consequences, then in bed around 2.

Tuesday: Admin day at the day job, so in early. Get things done, deal more with the employee issue and discover it will drag on another day before it's resolved, but at least it's not a hard night after that. Home around 11. This time it's just beer during the writing, which is easier. In bed around 2 again, but not as stressed as the day before.

Wednesday: Off day from the day job, but I feel like crap thanks to the weather change here, which means I'm nowhere near as productive as I should be. I manage to get some work done on the thing I'm vaguebooking, but that's about it. That night is my weekly tabletop gaming night, but I feel so bad I can't really enjoy it. No writing today, but at my publicist's request I do get Skype set back up so I can be on some podcasts she's setting up. Wind up chatting with a friend on Facebook for a while to wind down. The conversation goes well, so not in bed till like 4:30. Still, while my head is stuffed up, I feel less stressed, so that helps. On the plus side, the issue with the employee at my day job reaches a resolution, so there's that at least.

Thursday: Second day off, and a bit more productive. Wake up at 9AM to deal with a couple of minor crises at home, then back in bed in 9:45. Finally wake up for good at 2. Coffee, then more coffee. Get some more things done on the vaguebook thing, and get to spend some family time. Actually feel a little better. Start putting things together to take care of the things around the house that are falling apart due to my insane schedule. Finally get to watch a movie with the wife and kids (The VVitch, which was incredibly awesome, by the way), and munched on some pumpkin pie, the first stage of my acceptance that summer's gone and fall is here. Back to the writing, then discuss the SP with the person helping it, then a FB chat with a friend. Since I slept so late, not in bed till 4.

As I write this, it's Friday, and things for this whole weekend are looking to be interesting. The signed book arrived damaged beyond belief, so I get to do the insurance claim on it, and send another copy. Sending the copy I don't mind; dealing with the post office on an insurance claim, yeah, that's going to suck. Back to the day job, so I'll get home around 1 AM or so tonight, and will work on the SP a bit before going to bed. Probably no social media this time, since it looks like I'll be pulling a double at the day job tomorrow. As a result, I'll get home at 1 AM tomorrow and just collapse into bed. Then it's Sunday again, and the entire process will repeat itself.

I wish I could say this is unusual, but it's not. This is actually a fairly typical week in my life. Why the day job? Because I need to pay my bills. Maybe in ten years, or more, I'll be able to write full-time and only keep a part time job to help with expenses, but remember, I'm just starting out, and didn't go through a traditional publisher to get there. "But I thought your book was doing well?" It's been well-received, and has sold more than I expected it to, that's true. But it's one book. Royalty payments aren't going to be that awe-inspiring on one book.

Besides, the money was never the point. If it was, I wouldn't have done it to start with.

So why do it at all? Why subject myself to this if I'm not making money hand over fist? Simple: because this is my passion. This is my calling. Simply put: this is what I want to do. I'm a storyteller; it's what I was made for, so I do it.

Here's the thing: I'm at a point in my life where I can do it this way. I have a wife that understands my compulsion, and supports it. I have kids that are a little older, so they are okay with me doing this, and also support it. I have a day job to pay the bills while I pursue my dream. Do I want to sustain myself on this alone at some point in the future? Absolutely. But I know that takes work to get there, and I have no problem at all in doing it. After all, aside from the time I get to spend with my family and friends, I find myself most at peace with the world while I'm sitting in front of the computer with a blank page before me and a story pouring out of me.

If nothing else, that alone would make it all worth while.