Sunday, December 22, 2013

Killer Reads in 2013

I haven't kept track of what books I read this year. Sometimes I write them down in a journal. Maybe I should use Goodreads for keeping track of what I read. Anyway, like many of my fellow authors I would like to post about what books stood out that I read in 2013. There's no rhyme and little reason as to why I like a book other than it had that mental umami effect. If I can't put the book down, that's what I call a killer book. That's it. I don't look for some deeper meaning. I don't try to figure out what the book was a metaphor of. I just want to be taken away. I read to escape. I want to visit someone else's world and wade in it for a while, feel what they feel. And I tend to dig the dark side of the spectrum. So here it goes:

I'll start out with my favorite read of the year, Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale. I have been told by too many people that I need to read Lansdale. I'd read a few short stories and enjoyed each of them. I spotted a nice hardcover of Bad Chili at a thrift store maybe a year ago. My question now is: Why the hell did I wait so long to read this book?

I bought the Subterranean Press re-issue of his debut novel Act of Love a while back. I'm now reading that and enjoying every bit of it. It reads like a debut novel, particularly after reading Bad Chili, which is such a tight, seamless tale that really showcases how tuned Lansdale's talent as an author has become over the years. Looks like I have an extensive back catalogue to get through.

Muerte con Carne by Shane McKenzie was another standout story for me this year. I've been a fan of Shane since reading Infinity House and Muerte cemented that for me. I really need to catch up. This guy is about as prolific as they come and 2014 looks even more jam-packed with new releases than '13.

There's always a lot of interest in the Lovecraft mythos. Maybe too much, but, as with zombies and vampires, I will dip my toes into that type of horror tale from time to time, particularly when I know how good the author is. The Return by David A. Riley is a dark, depressing tale of Lovecraftian mystery and plenty of horror. If you haven't read David A. Riley then you need to pick up one of his 2013 releases and rectify that. He's been publishing short stories professionally for decades and I'm glad he has finally given us such a fantastic novel.

I know Joe Hill's NOS4A2 was all the rage this year, but I'm hoping maybe to get that one for Christmas. I did read his novel Heart-Shaped Box and thoroughly enjoyed it. A shame he is often compared with his father, for his writing is a force to be reckoned with that stands alone quite well. I'm a fan of rock 'n' roll and heavy metal, so the idea of a protagonist who is an aging rock star appealed to me. Good stuff!

And finally I would also like to acknowledge a collection of horror stories that was right up my alley. The Crossroads by K. Trap Jones is a collection of narrative horror that relies heavily on atmosphere and dread, though Trap doesn't hesitate from the macabre and disturbing. This was an exceptional collection considering how many of the stories I liked. Really none of them were bad, I just didn't like a few of them as much as so many others. That's a feat considering how many single author collections are littered with sub par stories.

So there you have it. Just a sampling of what I read this year. I always hope to read more books each year. In 2014 I think I'll better track my reading. And I think I'll read more mysteries and thrillers, maybe some sci-fi. Maybe not. Certainly more Lansdale.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trippin' Through The Crossroads: An Interview with Horror Author K. Trap Jones

I recently read a killer collection of short stories by K. Trap Jones entitled The Crossroads, released by Hazardous Press earlier this year. I go into a single author collection, or even an anthology, hoping I'll like at least fifty per cent of the stories. Does that seem like a low number? Maybe. But let's face it, how many collections have you read that were better? They're out there, but sometimes hard to find. I love the collections of Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Ray Bradbury, among others. Those guys are so good they can write about a bowel movement and turn it to gold. The Crossroads hit me pretty hard, beginning with a story that set the tone for the entire collection not only because of the theme, but due to its wickedness and the sheer dread it filled me with. From there on each story grabs you, even the few that I didn't like as much as the others, and by the time you've finished you kind of want to revisit a few of them. Yeah, it's that good.

So, I contacted Mr. Jones and he agreed to meet with me somewhere in the ethereal crossroads  between our respective homelands on the opposite sides of the United States.  This is how it went:

Robert Essig: The Crossroads is a collection of narrative horror stories. What draws you to writing in a narrative style?
K. Trap Jones: Narrative horror is what I'm the most comfortable with. There is a certain sense of raw emotion that comes with narrative horror that really captured me ever since reading Poe's THE TELL-TALE HEART at a very young age. I truly enjoy becoming the character and expressing a slew of emotions as the character is challenged mentally to make it through a terrible situation. I'm not big on over describing elements within my stories. Within all of my narratives, I hardly ever use adjectives to describe the narrator. I allow the reader to picture him/her as they see fit. My vision of them will be different from others. Instead, I focus on the tone of the character and what is plaguing their mind as they stand at their own personal crossroads.
RE: It's hard to pick favorites, so let me be the one to put you on the spot here: which one of the stories in The Crossroads is your favorite and why?
KTJ: I actually have two favorites that have lingered with me since I wrote them. THAT ONE DIRT ROAD is the first one. The first half of the story is true. I grew up in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida and there was this creepy dirt road at the base of woods on the outskirts of an Air Force Base that my friends and I always went to.
The second story is DANCE WITH THE DEAD. I really had a difficult time getting this one out of my head. Someone once told me that writing narrative horror chips away at your sanity. There are a few scenes in this particular story that made it difficult to move on from it.
RE: What are your five desert island books? That's to say, if you were stranded on a desert isle, which five books would you like to be stranded with?
KTJ: I'm old school when it comes to my favorite books, so they would definitely be the following:
1. Inferno - Dante Alighieri
2. Dracula - Bram Stoker
3. Complete Collection of Edgar Allan Poe
4. Grimm's Fairy Tales
5. Jaws - Peter Benchley
RE: "The Roadie" has overt heavy metal influence, and I venture that the final story in the collection, "Dance with the Dead", may have found a bit of inspiration from a certain Slayer song on the Season in the Abyss record (though I could be barking up the wrong tree here). Does heavy metal music bear an influence on your writing?
KTJ: You hit the nail on the head with DANCE OF THE DEAD. Slayer's song Dead Skin Mask is one of my favorite songs so I wanted to pay homage to it. Music is a big part of my storytelling. Not only will songs spark the creation of a character or plot, but it also helps the entire construction of the story. I write with music blaring through headsets. My genre of choice is Heavy Metal music, but I do venture all around. As a product of the 80's, I would always read the lyrics within those CD jackets and found that some of the best stories were in the form of music. THE ROADIE is an in-your-face dedication to the bands that helped shape my youth and writing style. I fought hard about how to write that story, because I didn't want it to come off as a cheesy advertisement, but at the same time I wanted to have the band names there, so I based the personalities of the different fans depending on which band shirt they were wearing. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that even if a reader wasn't a fan of metal music, that they would also be able to enjoy the read.
RE: Many of these stories are somewhat downbeat and even depressing--the kind of stuff I love to read. Do you prefer to write this type of story? Does this in some way reflect your perception of society?
KTJ: Tough question. Writing for me, is a kind of therapy. I use ink on paper to express myself and narrative horror allows me to achieve just that. I pour so much of myself within these stories that the line between fiction and reality can sometimes blur. There are a lot of real life details within each one, obviously not the violent aspects, lol. When I'm describing a location, like that particular dirt road, it's based on my real life experience. If I have been somewhere or experienced something, then I feel more comfortable writing about it.
Depression and sadness is something that we all share together, regardless of what pulls us there. My stories are very depressive in tone. The basic structure is to put a regular person in a terrible situation and have them describe what they are feeling. Anyone can write about an axe going into the back of someone's head and describe the bloody aftermath, but what I'm fascinated with is what the person holding the axe is thinking as the blade is being swung or any type of sorrow that follows. To me, that is where the true horror lies; within the mind of the killer.
RE: If you dropped dead tomorrow, what would you like on your tombstone?
KTJ: K. Trap Jones
Currently out to lunch, be back soon!
RE: How did you become a fan of horror?
KTJ: I became a fan of horror before I even knew what horror was. I was intrigued by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Dante's Inferno at a very young age. I didn't know I was reading horror, I simply thought of them as great stories. I think the turning point was when I became a fan of the TV series Tales from the Crypt. With all the twists and turns that the show offered, I began to really enjoy the creative aspect of horror.
RE: Tell us a little about your latest splatterpunk novella The Drunken Exorcist.
KTJ: Crazy, crazy, crazy. THE DRUNKEN EXORCIST, published by Necro Publications, is probably the most insane plot I have ever written. Most of my stories come from some sort of question that gets conjured up within the back of my mind. With this one, I always wondered what happens during the most extreme case of exorcisms, when the peaceful procedures no longer work. The character of Father Schnitt has quickly become my favorite character. He's a foul mouthed, no nonsense preacher who has to deal with the scum of exorcisms. His attitude reflects his disgust for human society and being an outcast from the church for his ability to see demons and his unconventional ways of handling the extreme cases of exorcisms. Placed on probation for these methods, Father Schnitt is forced to transcribe his dealings with demons and his means for extraction. He quickly learns that whiskey is a demon deterrent and the bottles serve as a perfect cage for the demons, but the liquid poison is also deteriorating his mind. I had a blast writing this character with his crude tone and lineup of weaponry.
RE: What can we look forward to from K. Trap Jones in 2014?
KTJ: There's a lot brewing right now. In the beginning of 2014, my novel THE HARVESTER will be coming out from Blood Bound Books, which is the sequel to THE SINNER. Sirens Call Publications will be publishing my novel ONE BAD FUR DAY, which is a twisted story set in the animal society of Louisiana during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There are a few other projects that I have completed that are currently in the hands of publishers.  I will also continue to write short stories, so another collection could be in the works. Maybe in the second half of 2014, we can hopefully see the return of Father Schnitt in a sequel to THE DRUNKEN EXORCIST.
I just want to add that I am a huge fan of your work and it's been an honor to visit your blog! Keep it heavy! \m/
RE: Thanks for dropping by! It was my pleasure!
Here are some useful links:
The Drunken Exorcist (on sale for .99 cents kindle download!)
K. Trap Jones is a writer of horror novels and short stories. With a sadistic inspiration from Dante Alighieri and Edgar Allan Poe, his temptation towards folklore, classic literary works and obscure segments within society lead to his demented writing style of "filling in the gaps" and walking the jagged line between reality and fiction. His debut novel THE SINNER (Blood Bound Books, 2012) won the Royal Palm Literary Award. He is also a member of the Horror Writer's Association and can be found lurking around Tampa, Florida.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Splatterpunk 4 - OUT NOW!

Splatterpunk 4 is out now, but be quick, there is a new Christmas story by JEFF STRAND, starring Andrew Mayhem! Plus more new fiction by J.F. GONZALEZ, SHANE MCKENZIE, ROBERT ESSIG and JACK BANTRY. Art by DAN HENK, DANIELE SERRA, JIM AGPALZA and GLENN CHADBOURNE. Non-fiction: You Sick Fuck or Why I Love Extreme Horror by JEFF BURK. Interviews with JOHN SKIPP, SHANE MCKENZIE and J.F. GONZALEZ. Plus the usual…

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dipping My Toes in the Pool of Inspiration

I've always been a creative person. I was never the best artist but I once loved to draw, I used to play and write music, and then I discovered the joy of writing fiction. I don't dedicate much creativity to anything but writing, and I'm not sure I could. There just isn't enough time and if I don't have the passion for it, well, it's a lost cause. But even the creative flame peters out, the muse closes its eyes and drifts off to sleep, and that's when the best inspiration tends to strike, leaping like a snake borne of lightning with a bite like a junkyard dog.

But I imagine that inspiration is more like a pool. You can sit at the edge and dip your toes in, playfully flirting with the water, the raw ideas that bubble to the surface. You'll find enough inspiration to jump over the hurdle but soon enough you find yourself at square one, dipping your toes in, hoping for another good one to rise to the top. Some people convince themselves that the cream rises to the top, but I'm not talking milk here. Nope, I'm talking about the Pool of Inspiration, and if you want the good shit you've got to dive right the fuck in and swim for it. Sure, some great stories rise to the top, but there are other ones that have been repressed, fermenting at the bottom, perhaps even dirtied with the waste left there by stories past. Diamonds don't look like icing until you break away the crusty rock, cut the gen properly, and then polish the shit out of it. At first glance you would walk right by a diamond in the rough.

Especially if you've been sitting there with your toes in the water.

Meanwhile, those who've been bathing in the waters of inspiration can spot a great idea in its natural state, pluck it right from under the toe-swisher's eyes, and if they work at it maybe they can give birth to a gleaming diamond of a story.

I have no idea whether I have given birth to any diamonds lately, but I do know that I have been swimming in that Pool of Inspiration, and I've always been more comfortable swimming beneath the water than above. In the past week I have written five stories ranging from 800 to 2,500 words apiece. With the exception of one, all of these stories were inspired by the imagination of my young self, all thoughts and musings from a mind that, at the time, had no interest in reading or writing. These ideas had been there all along in my subconscious, moldering in a mental pit until somehow manifesting all at once in a most interesting and surprising way.

Aside from the stories I have recently written, I have also developed the beginnings of a novel that revolves around the mountain my family lived on during my pre-teen and teenage years. I can step outside and see that mountain from here, and if I venture a few blocks north I can go back to the house my parents live in to this day where all of my mountainous misadventures began. I'm eager to go back, eager to bring to life imaginary youngins going through the trials and tribulations of growing up--a time when we thought we had it all figured out but knew nothing. And, of course, there will be horrors abound, and some blood. Always some blood.

I'm curious to see what the pool of inspiration has in store for me this week.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Absurd Interview with Yours Truly

I was recently interviewed by Ryan C. Thomas for his blog Skinny Man's Lair. If you haven't read any of his Absurd Interviews, then you're missing out. He picked my brain and THIS is how it turned out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guest Blog Post

I recently wrote a guest blog post called "I Have Ghosts, How 'Bout You" that was published today on Armond Rosamilia's blog. I thought writing about my personal ghost experiences was a good theme for the month of October. It also fits into the theme of my latest novel People of the Ethereal Realm, a ghost story that does not take place in an old scary house. If you have moment, please give it a read, and while you're there take a moment to peruse Armand's blog.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Genesis of People of the Ethereal Realm

I recently did a pair of guest posts on the wonderful blogs of Craig Saunders and Ken Cain. The essay is called The Genesis of People of the Ethereal Realm, done in two parts. Below are links to each post, and while you're there be sure to peruse the rest of their blogs. A lot of good stuff there.

Part one, dealing with how I came up with the idea for People of the Ethereal Realm, is available HERE.

Part two, detailing what I learned while getting the book published in the small press, is available HERE.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

KillerCon Bound

In one week my wife and I will be setting forth on a venture like no other.  We will head out on a five hour journey to the land of dinging slot machines, hookers, despair, excitement, alcohol, glee, money, tourists, heat, fun, fuck-it-all, and KillerCon.

That's right. We're going to Las Vegas.

While not my first tme in Vegas, this will be not only my first KillerCon, but my first convention (discounting the many times I've been to San Diego ComiCon as a teenager). On top of that, I will be hosting a table in the dealer's room for Post Mortem Press. Damn right! I'll have a number of books available from the PMP catalogue as well as my novel People of the Ethereal Realm.

If you're going to attend KillerCon, I hope to see you there. Look for me at the Post Mortem Press table. Stop by and say hi. Maybe you'll find a book you'd like to buy. Remember, what happens in Vegas may stay there, but the books you buy from Post Mortem Press go home with you.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Do You Write When You're Sick?

So I have a four-year-old. He's a great little boy...most of the time. Hyper, yes; energetic, of course, but for the most part he's a wonderful and sweet human being. However there is something that comes with having young children that is the bane of my existence. Something those of us who wash our hands regularly, don't stick our fingers in our mouths, don't sit on the floor in public places, and don't stick our tongues on everything manage to avoid.

I'm talking cold and flu here. And that son of mine manages to get sick as much as he possibly can, perhaps in the interest of causing his father to become sick so I have to stay home from work. That could be it, after all. The kid could have a master plan in mind when he's sticking his tongue on the table at a restaurant or touching every goddamn thing at kid-level in every store and then sticking his fingers in his mouth. 

Yeah, maybe he's doing it on purpose so dad gets sick and has to stay home with me.

Well, whatever the reason, I was sick on Friday and Saturday. It was some kind of bastard summer cold that attacked my sinuses something wicked. The kind of sinus pressure that makes one dream of lobotomy. And the sore throat...I don't remember swallowing any sandpaper, but apparently I did. I sat around most of the time reading Downfall by Michael S Gardner (review to follow), watched some documentaries on biker gangs, dozed off a bit, read more, and...

Well, I tried to write, but for the life of me I couldn't get my thoughts together enough for the task. In those two days I may have typed out a grand total of 250 words--maybe! A sentence or three of uninspired drivel better left on the cutting room floor.

As it has been since I began writing, it remains: I cannot, for the life of me, write while I'm sick. It seems like a great time to write for someone who works full-time, but that just isn't the case, so I fell behind the schedule I had created for myself this month in regards to my work-in-progress. I started on August 1st, aiming for one thousand words a day. The manuscript looks like it will round out between 20K and 30K, so I am determined to finish the first draft by the end of August. I should be at 12K by the end of the day, but I don't know about that. I had fallen a little behind before I became sick, and even more so over the course of Friday and Saturday. I'll write more tonight. Hopefully I can take my 9K words and elevate them toward my goal.

So, if you find yourself with a nasty summer cold, you've been placed on supreme couch duty, why not download my latest book onto your e-reader and forget about your misery by losing yourself in some good ole horror? Various formats are available at: amazon, Barns and Noble, and smashwords.

Keep it horror!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

People of the Ethereal Realm - NOW ON SALE!

That's right, folks! My second novel of horror, People of the Ethereal Realm, is now available in trade paperback from Post Mortem Press. I'm very excited about this release.  I hope those of you who decided to read the book have a good time with it, and, of course, I hope you will be kind enough to leave your comments in an amazon or goodreads review. Word of mouth is so damn important for us struggling authors.

Barbara comes to Adam at night while his wife is working the graveyard shift at the hospital. She is but a dream in the mind of a frustrated man whose life is on the verge of collapse, but Adam has something she wants and she will go to any extreme in acquiring her desires.

Gerald lives a lonely life in the Boulevard, a ghetto on the wrong side of the tracks. He's blind, but where his sense of vision is obsolete, his ability to communicate with the souls of the dead is acute. He fears nothing, having grown up on the mean streets, but on the night Barbara visits him that is about to change.

Who is this mysterious woman and what does she want so badly that she'll destroy anyone and anything that gets in her way? Can she bring two men from different backgrounds together for her bidding? How many people will have to die, and how many will wish death was the end?

"Robert Essig's voice is a beautiful thing. He wields it like a handcrafted baseball bat, and People of the Ethereal Realm is Essig at his finest, with a story that hits hard but leaves pretty scars."

--Craig Saunders, author of Rain and A Home by the Sea

"People of the Ethereal Realm is a wicked tale of possession and mayhem that is sure to unnerve the most seasoned horror fan! It's original, frightening, and very creepy! A ghost tale with razor sharp teeth! I loved it!"

--David Bernstein, author of Damaged Souls and Machines of the Dead

Available in print and kindle format HERE.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Does Edward Lee Have to Say About DOA II?


"Make sure your health insurance covers psychiatric counseling before reading this book, because you’re gonna need it. The experience of this collection may be likened to getting run over by a 666-car locomotive engineered by Lucifer. This is the cream of grotesquerie’s crop, a Whitman’s Sampler of the heinous, and an absolutely gut-wrenching celebration of the furthest extremities of the scatological, the taboo, the unconscionable, and the blasphemous.”


The next anthology from Blood Bound Books, DOA II, drops on July 4th. This book of depraved stories has a killer TOC, including my story "Dr. Scabs and the Hags of El Cajon."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Grand Mal Father's Day sale!!!

That's right, folks! Grand Mal Press is having a Father's Day sale all weekend. Many of their kindle titles are only .99 cents including my novel Through the in Between, Hell Awaits.

Pick up a few titles, read 'em, and then leave your thoughts via customer review.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Horror con Carne: An Interview with Shane McKenzie

With books such as All You can Eat, Muerte con Carne, Jacked, and Addicted to the Dead, just to name a few, Shane McKenzie is taking the horror genre by the horns and yanking. He's about as prolific as they come, barreling like an out of control freight train of blood n' guts and good reads. I recently sat around a virtual table and asked Shane a few questions. It went something like this:

Robert Essig: Your latest Deadite release, Muerte con Carne, is a horror novel that takes place in a shady American/Mexican border town revolving around Felix and Marta, a couple there to document the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, who stumble upon something horrific neither of them could have imagined. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to stop right there. Could you discuss where the idea for this story originated?

Shane McKenzie: It’s going to be hard to answer this question without giving away some things that I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about. But let me try. There are some authors. Three of them. You know who they are, but I won’t name them. Yet. Basically, we have all decided to collaborate on a novel. The novel will feature serial killers from these other authors’ previous books, killers that a lot of fans will recognize. Basically, the book will be about a league, like a fantasy football league, but they use the killers’ stats to get points. It’s going to be a fun book, let me tell you. Here’s the problem. I’m the new guy. I don’t have any killers in previous books that would have worked for this. So…I wanted to write one.

So that’s why I wrote it. My favorite horror movie of all time is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So of course, my favorite horror villain is Leatherface. I wanted to write my homage to the film, with a memorable villain like Leatherface. When I thought about Texas, my mind kept going to the border. Once I realized I could create a family of cannibals that was preying on illegal immigrants as they crossed the border, really the story wrote itself. I wanted my big character to be masked, so since I was already using the Mexican theme, the lucha libre mask just seemed perfect. This character was just so much fun to write about. As a kid, I was completely obsessed with pro wrestling, and writing about El Gigante really brought a lot of that out. I’m looking forward to writing about him again!

RE: Several of your books revolve around food. What makes food or the act of eating such great fodder for horror?

SM: You know, I get asked this a lot. It’s funny. I didn’t mean to write about food so much. I would just get an idea that I liked, and I ran with it. Turns out, most of them are about eating something. I have struggled with weight issues my whole life. I spent a lot of time at buffets as a child. I try really hard to be healthy these days, but I still get those moments when I just want to stuff my face with the nastiest, greasiest food available. Also, we can all relate to eating since we do it all day long every day. I can write a story about drug addiction, and some people may dig it, but someone who struggled with it will really connect. With eating, everyone can connect with it on some level. We are all addicted to food, and it’s the worst drug because we need it to live. And what makes it worse is that it’s cheaper to eat like shit than it is to eat healthy. It doesn’t seem fair. But when I really think about it…lots of horror stories are about eating, or fear of being eaten rather. The monsters are out to gobble us up!

RE: You may have heard about menudo soup as a hangover cure. In my part of town it’s sold in almost every greasy taco shop, but only Friday through Sunday, so maybe there’s something to this whole hangover business.  Do you indulge in menudo? And if so, do you like it for the flavor or the hangover cure?

SM: I like it depending on how it’s made. I’ve had some that was really bad, and I would cringe every time the tripas would slide down my throat like congealed snot. But if it’s done right…it’s damn good. I’m not a huge drinker (except for at conventions) so I don’t have many hangovers.

RE: There’s a lot of buzz about your work and you seem to be producing books like a well oiled machine from such publishers as Deadite, Thunderstorm, and Severed Press with work forthcoming from Blood Bound Books, Eraserhead Press and many more. Where do the ideas come from and what inspires you to write?

SM: The ideas come from everything around me. Anything at all can trigger an idea. A lot of it comes from stuff I either loved as a kid, or went through as a kid. Or I might just get an idea out of nowhere. It’ll just pop into my head, and I’ll find some paper and jot it down. I guess I get so many ideas because I’m constantly thinking about writing. Another theme you will see often in my books is addiction. I kind of have an addictive personality I guess, which got me into some trouble along the way. Now…I’m addicted to writing horror. I got it bad, man. That’s what keeps me doing it…I can’t stop. I just love everything about it. If I got more than a day without writing at least 2,000 words, I start panicking. But besides that, it’s the readers that keep me going. I still can’t believe someone would want to spend their money on something I wrote. I love hearing my readers’ feedback, good or bad. The reason I’m putting so much out there is to get more readers. That’s also why I’m publishing with so many different presses. And even beyond that, I do this simply because horror is just in my blood. I love the genre, have always loved the genre. I knew to be truly happy, I would have to be doing something in the horror field. And I’m happy as a cannibal living by the border right now.
RE: One of the strengths I found in reading your work is that your characters are very real.  They have problems, they have wants and concerns, and that makes the reader interested in finding out what happens to them, even if the reader doesn’t necessarily like them.  Where do they come from?  What inspires the life you breathe into them?

SM: I suppose there are traits that come from people I know, or myself, whether I meant to do that or not. But no story will be good unless the characters are believable. I actually don’t think all characters have to be likable either, because not all people are likable. They just have to seem real. And real people are flawed. They have addictions and bad habits and can be assholes and have mood swings. Eventually, my characters just come to life, and writing them is easy because they write themselves. Something that’s very important to remember, and we’ve all heard this before, is to not make a character completely good or bad. Your hero should still be a dick or an alcoholic or prejudiced or something to balance out the good he’s trying to do. Because everyone has a dark side. Same goes with the villains. The things they do are awful, but in their mind, they are doing right. For instance, Cristobal and Gustavo are just trying to provide for their family. My absolute favorite characters to write about are kids. Getting to see the world through their unseasoned eyes is always fun. Monsters are scary, girls are even scarier, that kind of thing. I’m about to start a new novel that is best described as The Sandlot kids meet Jason Voorhees. Can’t wait to get started.

RE: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind of tunes do you prefer?

SM: No, I don’t. I need silence when I write or my mind will wander. Maybe if I listen to music with no lyrics it could work. Perhaps I’ll give it a try!

RE: What can your fans look forward to? Are there any releases coming up that you would like to mention?

SM: There is a lot. I’ve been a busy sumbitch. For the rest of 2013, I’ve got Fat Off Sex & Violence coming from Deadite Press, Escape From Shit Town (co-written with Erik Williams and Sam W. Anderson—the three of us are called Mondo Blood) coming from Thunderstorm Books, The Oak (the extended version of Infinity House) coming from Sideshow Press, Flesh of my Flesh coming from Blood Bound Books, and the paperback version of Addicted to the Dead (originally published by Thunderstorm) coming from Dark Regions Press. In 2014, I’ve got a new zombie novel coming from Severed Press, two more Deadite Press books (they have not been titled yet), and Toilet Baby and Pus Junkies (both bizarro) coming from Eraserhead Press. There is more, but that’s what is concrete at this point. Also, tons of amazing books coming out of Sinister Grin Press!

RE: What was it that made you a fan of horror?

SM: Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. I thought the zombies were so cool, and the werewolf of course. I watched and rewatched that, along with the making. After that, I wanted to watch any monster movie I could. And it just evolved from there. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I discovered the more hardcore side of horror. I watched Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie, Dead Alive, Nekromantik, and many others. That took my obsession to a whole new level.

RE: Who’s more frightening, a vegetarian or a meat eater?

SM: Whichever one is holding the chainsaw.

RE: Are there any subjects you find to be too taboo to write about?

SM: Anything involving children and sexual acts. I just don’t think it’s necessary to describe that kind of stuff. Of course, that kind of stuff happens, so I don’t have anything against an author writing about the subject, but there are ways to do it so that it’s not detailed. The scene from Stephen King’s It comes to mind. I didn’t think that was necessary, and I didn’t like how it made me feel as I read it. I don’t have an issue with violence toward children in books for some reason, but I will never describe in detail any sexual act toward a child.

RE: If you died today, what would you like on your tombstone?

SM: When I wake up, I’m gonna be pissed.

I want to thank Shane for stopping by and allowing me to interview him. I didn't have to bust out the chains and the gimp, so that's a good thing. For anyone out there who is a fan of horror and has not tried a Shane McKenzie book, you're missing out. You should seriously rectify that...NOW

Shane McKenzie is the author of All You Can Eat, Infinity House, Bleed on Me, Jacked, Drawn & Quartered, Muerte Con Carne, and Addicted to the Dead. He is the editor and co-owner of Sinister Grin Press. Shane enjoys steaming bowls of menudo with his wife and daughter in Austin, TX. Keep up with him at If you don't, he's got a figure four leg lock for you, followed by a plethora of flying elbow drops. You can also find him on Facebook or email him at

Monday, May 27, 2013

On Deck

I dislike working on too many projects simultaneously, but I always seem to find myself in that boat. I've been working on my short novel Of Dreams Come Nightmares, which is coming along nicely. I had to completely rewrite and piece together the first four chapters because they just didn't work, but the second half of the book is pretty tight. There's one issue I need to address, but it's minor.

I have also been working on Brothers in Blood. I have about 1/3 of the manuscript to go. I've already tightened up what I have written and I'm happy with it. And, of course, there's another story that will be called Broth House that is tickling my brain so damn much I may have to start on it before finishing Brothers in Blood. Broth House is going to be a tricky one. I'm looking forward to writing it, but also horrified that I'll totally fuck it up. I have a solid plot, a solid protagonist, and a solid villain, so I have those bases covered. I just have to use the canvas of my mind to paint them into some semblance of reality...after I finish Brothers in Blood, damn-it!

Good-fright, all!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Guest Blog by Author Kenneth W. Cain on His New Collection of Dark Fiction

I would be remiss not to start by letting Robert know that I am most grateful for him asking me to send something over for his website. Some of you may know I am a big fan of Robert's writing, so be sure to check out his body of work. Now that I've done that much, on to my post...

Last year, when I had grown wary of editing and rewriting the same stories over and over again, I asked my wife, "What am I going to do with all of these old tales?"

She looked at me as she always does, reassuring me I would figure out what to do.

And I did. I took them all, wrapped them up in a neat little cover, and declared an end to the first chapter of my writing career. Although I list Distressed Press (what once was to become my own small press until I decided I didn't have it in me) as the publisher, I do not hide the fact I have self-published this collection of short fiction. In fact, all of my children books are also self-published.

Why would I go and do a thing like that you might ask? That is a fair question and I suppose I do have some regrets about it. At the time, I was putting my best foot forward, taking an accumulation of what I knew and threading it together. I've since revisited the collection three times to tweak things and often dream of reworking the entire project. Yes, I am a bit neurotic in that way I guess.

It isn't that I feel I've failed, but that I know I can do better. But the primary reason behind THESE OLD TALES at that moment in time was that I needed hands-on experience. I had a thought that I could put my twenty plus years of graphic design experience to work and earn some additional money to keep daddy sitting in his chair, dreaming up stories. And I couldn't rightly experiment with someone else's work. That wouldn't be fair to them.

With FRESH CUT TALES I have a different agenda. It's predecessor did quite well and I was amazed by those who reached out to me, telling me which stories they enjoyed and why. I even had a few people I admire in the world of writing contact me, which humbles me. I'm eternally grateful for it all, believe me. So when a few people started asking when the next collection was coming, suggesting titles and ideas for the cover, I was stumped. I hadn't planned on another collection. That wasn't until a little while back now, when inspiration finally stuck again.

What changed? I suppose it has gotten to that point again, where I want to earmark another chapter. While some may consider me conceited for doing so, a swelled head has nothing to do with it. Simply put, I write stories so that they can be read and that could never happen if they were left lying around, somewhere underneath my virtual bed, my own personal "dust-catcher." No, that won't do at all. Also, truth be told, I really have nothing to hide.

What I wanted to achieve with this next chapter though, was to revisit several of my older tales that have appeared in various anthologies. I wanted to read them again (a thing I often dread and have avoided when I can). I wanted to see if I could breathe new life into these tales and allow myself another reprise from worrying about them. And yes, I am most certain a year from now I'll be glancing back yet again, fretting over the smallest of details.

That's how I work. What I might lack otherwise, I am determined and I stay at it night and day, often in my sleep. I obsess about writing, the craft, the grammar, the editing, all of the stages of a story and every other juicy tidbit. Why do I torment myself in this way? Because I love the art of telling a story, and the more effective I can become at achieving my goal, the happier readers will be in the end.

Currently, there is no official date set for FRESH CUT TALES. I can tell you this; it will likely be sometime in June, perhaps even July. I'm not going to rush this one, as these things take care and diligence. Along with eight "fresh cuts" of previously accepted stories, I've opted to include a half-dozen or so older tales I will also be revisiting (including the very first story I wrote when I decided to pursue writing) to sweeten the deal.

With that, I hope you will be on the look out for FRESH CUT TALES through my website, my Facebook page, or Amazon. As always, much thanks to you, dear readers. Pleasant nightmares.


Kenneth W. Cain writes dark fiction from his home in eastern Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is the author of several novels and short fiction, including his acclaimed collection These Old Tales. His work has appeared alongside such notable authors as Hill, Barker, Ketchum, Braunbeck, Maberry and others.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hell Awaits Audiobook Now Available

My debut novel Through the In Between, Hell Awaits is now available in audiobook format from 

While the audiobook was in production I had the opportunity to listen to the first chapter. I was nervous about hearing someone read my work aloud. Would he hit the nuances? Would it have the flow I intended? Would he fuck up the odd names of the sentinels and demons?

My wife and I listened to the sample and we were floored. Rish Outfield did an amazing job. For anyone out there considering this purchase, I stand behind the production 100%.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Beta Readers Do Help

Sometimes you just know there's something wrong with a story, and you realize, too, that you cannot, for the life of you, figure out what the hell the problem is. This bothers me. But there's no reason to fret or toss that bad boy in the dreaded virtual "trunk." Why not send it a few people to read? They may pinpoint the issues you've been too blind to see, or reaffirm your fear that the story indeed sucks ('cause let's face it, some stories need to be taken out behind the shed and put out of their misery).

I rarely send my work to beta readers, but after having a few people read my latest short novel I am a believer. Having several pairs of eyes going over the story is nothing but helpful, and why wouldn't a writer do everything they could to improve upon their story before submitting the manuscript to a publisher?

I also think it is important to have a variety of beta readers if at all possible.  I had three for the short novel I am referring to, one of which isn't a writer. Though he liked the book a lot, he gave his two cents and pointed out several issues. The next reader was a writer himself and wrote a very detailed critique that, when I get around to completely rewriting the first half of the story, will come in very handy. Some of what he pointed out was so obvious and braindead that I'm shocked I disillusioned myself into thinking it would work. There's one more reader out there, and I look forward to her thoughts.

I am beginning to realize the importance of beta readers and I appreciate those who are willing to take the plunge. It means a lot to me that there are people who will spend their precious time reading my work and offering their thoughts. It has proven to be quite helpful. I am looking forward to the rewrite and I'm certain it will turn out 100% better than my first version.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Rolling Stones' Tour Set List Revealed

That's right, folks! The set list for the Rolling Stones' upcoming "These Old Bones" tour has finally been revealed. This is rock 'n roll at its very best. All your favorite hits spanning entire lifetimes!

(Can't Get No) Metamucil
Get Off of My Lawn
Stop Me Up
Angie O' Plasty
Homely Old Woman
As Years Go By (alt. title: As Peers All Die)
Time is NOT on My Side
Hobblin' Jack Crash
Charlie Horses (Keep Me Up All Night)
Under My Cane
Grandma's Little Helper

So bring your adult kids, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren because it's going to be a rockin'(chair) good time! Tickets starting at $1,000 dollars.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Spice of Nightmares: A Few Updates

I'm always working on something, though slowly at times. No deadlines at the moment, so I have my hands dipped into a few projects that I hope to submit in the near future, and, of course, quite a few stories and two novellas in the hands of publishers. Us writers are always waiting to "hear the good word" from someone. When Tom Petty wrote the song "The Waiting" he must have been dabbling in the writing biz.

I have a short story called "Dr. Scabs and the Hags of El Cajon" coming out in the soon-to-be-released anthology from Blood Bound Books entitled DOA II. Easily my most disturbing and offensive piece yet. The story certainly holds up to the title. Writing this story was a way of preserving the idea since I have a lot I want to get to before exploring it further.

My second novel People of the Ethereal Realm is slated for release from Post Mortem Press in June, just in time for my birthday. This is the story of two men from different walks of life who are brought together by a mysterious, ghostly woman who uses them to find something she has been searching far too long to find, and she'll go to any length to get what she wants.

As for what I've been writing: two short novels and a novella. The First is called In Black. I still have a few rounds of tightening up and fixing typos and grammatical errors. I'm waiting for a couple of readers to get back to me with their thoughts. My first reader brought up a few points that I will address when I go over the manuscript again. The second short novel is called Of Dreams Come Nightmares. I'm currently editing this one and will soon request volunteers to beta read it (a concept that is new to me, but seems to be working well). This story is about a man who lives a simultaneous life in reality and his nightly dreams. When the stress of starting a new business becomes too much, his worlds begin to collide. The third is a novella called Brothers in Blood that I am in the process of writing. This one is a non-supernatural horror story. People seem to be more responsive and freaked out about stories that could actually happen. This one'll rip your face off.

I have also been dabbling with a few short stories, but for the most part that's what I've been up to. I can't wait to get these stories into the world. Hopefully some publishers feel the same way.

Blood and guts to all, and to all a good fright!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Mother's Day (2010)

Just saw this flick last night. Back in 2009 or so when I heard they were remaking the goofy classic I was a bit off put, as I usually am when it comes to remakes. They're rarely any good, usually quite shitty, and often a complete waste of time. Like the remake of such similarly themed classics as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and Last House on the Left, my guess is that the producers wanted to bring this story to a generation that may not have rented Mother's Day at their local video store that way I did when I was a youngin. Of the aforementioned films (all of which I am a huge fan of the originals), Mother's Day was probably my least favorite. I always liked that film, but it is pretty kitschy.

Going into the 2010 version of Mother's Day I was a apprehensive. I think we missed the first five or ten minutes (we certainly missed the credits sequence) so I was already confused since the story didn't really match the story in the original about three girls going on a annual trip and being ambushed in the woods. No, it wasn't anything like that, and the story was better for it. In fact their were so many changes that, at first, I thought they'd have been better off making it an original film, but as I watched and became engrossed in this brutal horror film I realized that, for a change, this one was spot on.

The plot was not only updated, but more believable and intense than the original, which was off-key and even silly at times, more of a black-comedy-horror. That they took the idea of a mother who rules her psycho family with an iron fist and made it into a terrifying and violent horror film was brilliant. This is what I want to see in a remake. It didn't feel like they were remaking the film just to cash in on the name (I mean can you really cash in on a cult film title like Mother's Day? Don't think so.) In the world of remakes and do-overs, this one was not only justified (unlike such terrible remakes as Psycho, the Haunting, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, all of which should have been left the fuck alone), but done quite well. Yes, I like the original, but just a day after watching this psychotic display of brutality, I want to watch it again. Coming from me, that's a pretty big compliment for any horror film this day in age, much less a remake. I'm very opinionated and not a big fan of modern horror film, preferring more classic horror films of the early eighties and older (not that there weren't great horror films in the 90's or 00', but they're getting worse as time goes on).

I highly recommend this to any fan of horror and even fans of the original. I give it a solid 5/5 stars.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MUTE by Jeffrey Hale

Mute by Jeffrey Hale, the latest release from Grand Mal Press, is now available: HERE.

They came from the sea. They came from the shadows. They came from the sewers. But what are they, and what do they want? No one knows. Their thirst for blood is insatiable. They scramble from city to city, spreading destruction and death in their wake. Some call them “Mutes.” Some call them “Mimes.” Their names are synonymous with terror.

Fortunately, there are a few brave enough to stand against the monsters and risk their lives for the greater good; for the survival of the human race. Will they withstand the brutal assault? Or will they fall in the attempt?

Only time will tell.

"Hale knows how to keep the apocalypse fresh while hitting those classic decaying notes. A worthy addition to the genre."
David Dunwoody. author of EMPIRE and THE HARVEST CYCLE

"Mute is a classic horror B-movie in book form, and I mean that as a major compliment. Hot chicks, sex, psychotic mental patients, and cannibal mutants – and that's just the first few chapters! This book is rollicking good fun!" – JG Faherty, author of The Burning Time, Carnival of Fear, Cemetery Club,and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Ghosts of Coronado Bay

"Mute reads like a young Stephen King." -Iain McKinnon, author of Domain of the Dead

“Jeffery Hale brings us a frightening and very human look at a savage world in ruins, but this isn't your average post apocalypse novel. Forget zombies; beware the Mutes! This book will keep you turning the pages and yearning for another taste, and the ending will leave you speechless!” – Robert Essig, author of Through the In Between, Hell Awaits

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On Sequels

I'm not a fan of sequels. Film or book, sequels are generally made for the sake of the almighty greenback...or are they? You can't put a blanket statement like that on anything or else white heterosexual males would all be serial killers, right? Right. So I suspect there are a lot of reasons for sequels, as there are a lot of reasons for people to start killing.

Having grown up just after the horror movie heyday of the 80's and watching all of those shitty sequels on VHS in the early 90's, I became well acquainted with the method of rehashing the same old shit on a shoestring budget to cash in at the box office. Sure, some of those sequels aren't total shit, but let's face it, most of them would have been better left on the cutting room floor. If it wasn't for my love of horror I wouldn't have watched every Friday the 13th, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street film, but of course I watched them all and still do from time to time, so maybe there's something there. Why not milk a good franchise, right? Wrong.

What I'm tired of is a horror film doing well (or even just okay) and promptly there's a sequel in the works, even though the film itself was wrapped up neatly in the end and would have stood alone nicely in the annals of horror film. I ask myself: why? Why was there another film after Saw and Hostel? (Strangely enough I thought Hostel 2 was better than the first--whaddya know!) Why was there a sequel to the Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity? Wishmaster, The Omen, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Descent, Jaws, The Hills Have Eyes, and so many, many more should not have had sequels. These are just off the top of my head, though there are much better examples out there. Then I have to ask myself: Did A Nightmare on Elm Street really need one, much less seven sequels? Probably not, though I'm a sucker for Freddy and pretty much like every one of them with the exception of that ridiculous Freddy Vs Jason flick. But...the first is the best and would have remained more terrifying a film had Freddy not turned into a bad one-liner.

I think maybe I'm just getting older and more ornery and it bugs me to see so few original ideas, always waiting for the summer string of sequels to hit the theaters, uninspiring, tired and pulling in far too much cash from what can only be described as a sheep-like or desperate populace. There are something like five Saw films, five or six Final Destinations, and Paranormal Activity is well on the way. But, in retrospect, I suppose it's been this way at least since the slasher films of the late seventies and eighties, and it will continue in the name of supply and demand. I mean, why try to adapt a wonderful book or come up with something fresh, or even a twist on an old trope, right?

But what about books? How do sequels fare when it comes to the written word, and why are sequels so popular? I couldn't tell you from experience, because I can count how many sequels I have read on one hand. I'm not including a numbered series of books such as King's Dark Tower series, but sequels along the lines of Jack Ketchim's Off Season, Peter Giglio's Beyond Anon or Stephen King's Dr. Sleep. I have noticed a trend towards the trilogy, particularly in zombie fiction (a sub-genre I'm bored to death with). Perhaps that means the author has an epic story that can only be told in three parts. In many cases that falls under the same category as King's Dark Tower series (not that he really knew where it was going from the beginning back in the early eighties!). Like film, I can assume that the popularity of a story can merit the author penning a sequel for the sake of their fans. It's something I don't understand. I've read stories that I enjoyed so much I wished they would never end, but when I finish a book like that I don't yearn for a sequel. I say leave it be. Don't stir the ashes looking for a few pieces of charred wood for a smaller, less comforting fire. It's not that sequels don't work, they can, but I think more often than not they fall short and I'd much rather see fresh ideas. That being said, for the first time in my life I am looking forward to reading a few sequels: the aforementioned Beyond Anon by Peter Giglio, Kayla Undead by Bryan Smith, and Dr. Sleep by Stephen King. Perhaps these books will shift my view of novel sequels. I'll get back to you on that.

Guts and good cheer to all!

Robert Essig

Monday, March 4, 2013

DOA II TOC Announced

This Fourth of July, celebrate your 1st amendment rights with the release of DOA Volume II.

 Blood Bound Books' most popular anthology is back. Loved by some, hated by others; DOA is unlike any other anthology they've done before. And DOA II will shatter whatever taboos you had left from the first round.

Authors include:
Wrath James White
Jack Ketchum
J. F. Gonzalez
Robert Devereaux
David Quinn
Monica J. O’Rourke
Shane McKenzie
Daniel I Russell
Raymond Little
Laura J. Campbell
Calie Voorhis
Thomas Pluck
Ken MacGregor
Kristopher Triana
J.S. Reinhardt
Harper Hull
Joshua Dobson
Kerry G.S. Lipp
Anton Cancre
K. Trap Jones
D. Lynn Smith
Robert Essig
Kelly M. Hudson
Gregory L. Norris
Matt Kurtz
John McNee
David Bernstein
Here's the link to the virtual release on facebook: DOA II. There will be giveaways, story samples and more!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Few Books and Novellas I've Read this Year

I'm always trying to read more. Being a slow reader and having sparse leisure time, I have to find that happy medium between reading and writing. At times all I want to do is write on my work-in-progress, but I understand how important it is to read, though I don't read as varied a selection as I would like. I'm working on it. I tend to stick with horror because I dig the macabre, man! I read a mystery here and there and even a sci-fi book, but horror is where the heart is at.  Here are a few books I have read in 2013. I don't do many reviews because I'm terrible at it, so a quick little blurb for each one should suffice.

Mute by Jeffrey Hale

This book will be released soon from Grand Mal Press. I read an advanced copy and thought it was a great departure into the post apocalypse without the use (and sadly these days over-use) of zombies. Nope, Jeffery's vision of the bitter end starts with a whole new breed of creature, and it's a real doozie.

Infinity House by Shane McKenzie

This is a novella that probably holds the place in record books for most maggots in a piece of fiction. But that's not the whole of the story. There's much more than all the maggots, but you can't get them out of your mind after reading Infinity House. This is a refreshing (if that word can be used to describe nastiness) piece of horror in an urban setting reminiscent of the move People Under the Stairs. I am very much looking forward to more of Shane's work.

The Freakshow by Bryan Smith

The Freakshow has been around for a while, one of Bryan's Leisure titles. I bought the e-book version and gave it a spin in January. Good stuff! I have only read three or four Smith novels and I always find them to be solid and oftentimes disturbing. This one was no different. I like the idea of a freakshow, but I wasn't expecting the calibre of madness that is The Freakshow. I look forward to reading Kayla Undead later this year.

Whisonant by Mark Allan Gunnells

This was one half of a novella double from Sideshow Press and marked my first taste of the writings of Mark Allen Gunnells. Easily read in one sitting, this mysterious horror story was a very satisfying journey that did not go where I thought it would. You gotta love that. There's nothing more disappointing than predicting the ending of a story.  Just when you think you have this one figured out, that's when a bomb is dropped on your head. Very clever read. I look forward to more of Mark's work in the future.

I'm currently over one-hundred pages into Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box and loving it.

Happy reading!