Monday, November 24, 2014

Blood, Bones and Tim Curran

What I have here for you is a review of Tim Curran's wonderful book Blood, Bones and Bullets, a book I liked so much that I asked him for an interview. He agreed. After my review is the interview. Enjoy!

 
Blood, Bones and Bullets
by Tim Curran
review by Robert Essig
 
 
Tim Curran weaves a story like he's touching the souls of his characters and bringing forth the very essence of their lives, as is exemplified in the three novellas that are collected in the Darkfuse release of Blood, Bones and Bullets.

The first story (my personal favorite), entitled "Puppet Graveyard" follows Kitty Seevers as she becomes wrapped up in the bizarre world of ventriloquist Ronny McBane and his dummy Piggy. It's hard to tell who the real dummy is, and that Piggy has a mouth on him. Not just a horror story, but a mystery that brings the reader into the trappings of twisted minds and madness.

"The Underdwelling" takes us on a journey beneath the earth into the caverns of Hobart Mine. Boyd is the new guy and a bit nervous about an eight-hour day underground. When a new shaft opens up on the lowest level of the mines Boyd is included in the exploration party. What they find is a prehistoric world unseen by human eyes. After the opening is collapsed their fears become real. This story comes alive through the boisterous banter of the men as they navigate the mines. Curran has a gift with realistic and believable dialogue that effortlessly carries the story.

The trilogy is capped off with a stint behind the bars of Shaddock Valley maximum security prison in a story called "Fear Me". You think prison is rough and tough and scary as hell, just add something that stalks at night, something that cannot be restricted my mere steel bars and concrete walls and you've got yourself one hell of a horror story.


Tim Curran is about as prolific as they come, as anyone will see just perusing his books on Amazon. He has a true talent for telling a story. Through Tim's prose I had a glimpse into three unique tragedies and I look forward to relishing in more of his horrific visions.




 
 
An interview with the Corpse King himself:
 
Robert Essig: Hello, Tim! Welcome to my blog. I've got the bone saw and forceps out, so let's pick your brain a bit. I'll have you stitched up and out of here in no time. Why don't you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Tim Curran: Not much to tell. I work in a factory and write fiction as a hobby that's probably almost an obsession. It's all I really do. It's taken over everything. It's a great, hungering beast that allows me no social life or friends. It's too jealous for that.

RE: My favorite story in Blood, Bones and Bullets is "Puppet Graveyard". Piggy, the ventriloquist dummy in the story, steals the show. There were some amazing scenes with Ronny and Piggy that created palpable tension between the two. Where did the inspiration for Piggy come from?

TC: Ventriloquist dolls are weird and creepy.  We know they're just wood and plastic and what not...yet we do not trust them. Like puppets or mannequins, they seem to have a morbid half-life all their own. They are like us...but grotesque and exaggerated. There seems to be something behind their shining glass eyes, a malignant anti-human sort of sentience as if they know something we don't and have glimpsed things we wouldn't care to see. That's the inspiration for Piggy--the idea that there might some diabolic, spectral intelligence behind those eyes, plotting and scheming.

RE: Do you have any rituals that you perform before, during, or after the process of writing a novel?

TC: No, none. I have a very practical work ethic--I think of an idea and I let it form in my mind for days or weeks, sometimes months or years. When it's ready, it floats to the surface. Then I look for the opening sentence that intrigues me and might grab a reader and I build that into a paragraph. That first paragraph is important. Whether it's a story, novella, or a novel, it doesn't matter. The first paragraph sets tone, pacing, atmosphere, everything. If I have a good first line and first paragraph, I can make things happen.

RE: One of the elements that stood out in "The Underdwelling" was the dialogue. The banter between the miners made me feel like I was right there conversing with them. In the story "Fear Me" the dialogue is important in weaving a realistic look at life behind bars including prison slang. How do you approach dialogue?

TC: Every occupation and walk of life has it's own banter. In doing a story, I research the way the people in it talk, the jargon they use, the lives they lead. Realistic dialogue is very important. If you lack that, your characters seem hollow.

RE: What kind of stories do you enjoy reading?

TC: I read just about everything, save for fluff like paranormal romances. I like horror, of course, but I also devour science fiction. I'm not so much interested in the genre as I am in the story. If the story grabs me, I'll read it whether it's mainstream or genre or literary. The storyline is always the thing. I enjoy history, too. Especially dark history like the Black Death or the European witchcraft persecutions. Anything like that.

RE: Most of your books are stand-alones at a time when trilogies and sequels seem to be so popular (particularly when it comes to zombie fiction). Do you prefer stand-alone stories over a series or sequels and if so, why?

TC: Sequels are fine, but I rarely think any character is that fascinating that I want to write (or read) book after book after book about them. The problem with series is that they run dry pretty fast and part of the fun of any character is letting/watching them develop. You don't know who they are in the beginning, you find out a little at a time. In a series, you already know who they are and what they will and won't do so that takes a lot of the fun away from it. And if there's a sequel, well, you know somebody's going to survive so that steals a lot of the narrative tension away. The problem with zombie series is that 99% of them follow the same tired plot--a group of people get their hands on machine guns and what not and spend the entire book blowing away dead people. None of it is scary. They're really not horror novels, but action-adventure potboilers that throw in a some monsters so there's something to shoot. You'll find very few that don't have gun plots, ex-military or special forces type characters. The influence of first-person shooter games is obvious. And that's too bad because REAL people surviving a zombie pandemic has potential, but most of it tends to have very thin characterizations or comic book type hero and villain characters who are more preposterous than the walking dead themselves.

RE: So you're stranded on a desert island and, I dunno, maybe you have an old arm crank Victrola. Which three records and which three books would you like to bide your time.

TC: I would take The White Album by the Beatles because it's weird, catchy, and creative. Paranoid by Black Sabbath for those days I needed to be a doom-laden badass.  And maybe a collection of classical music so I could get some culture. I would choose fat books that would keep me going awhile. The Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells because it's fat and the stories are great. War and Peace because it's huge and I think you can read it five or six times and discover a new novel every time. My third book would probably be a collection by Thomas Ligotti...although being alone and reading stories about lonely, alienated, and possibly insane outsiders might not be a good idea when you're alone on an island. So scratch that and give me Robinson Crusoe.

RE: Maybe someone is reading this who hasn't sampled your work yet. Which one of your books is a good place to start?

TC: Actually, I think Blood, Bones and Bullets is a perfect place to sample my stuff.

RE: Describe your writing style in a few words.

TC: I try not to let the dust settle.

RE: Anything coming out soon that you would like to plug?

TC: Next thing I have coming out will probably be Afterburn from Severed Press. There's also a novel from DarkFuse called Doll Face. Not sure when that one will be out, though.


 
I want to thank Tim for doing this interview. I am becoming a rapid fan of his work and will be reading more very soon. I suggest you do the same. Purchase Blood, Bones and Bullets HERE. Visit Tim Curran's website HERE.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Robert's Random Musing #2





Kids Say Some Funny Shit
 
 
Bill Cosby probably has a copyright on Kids Say the Darnedest Things, so I figured I'd better use an even more appropraite title for this musing.
 
The other night My wife and I had dinner at a local casino. We ate the buffet and they practically had to wheel us out of the place in gastrointestinal despair. It was a good buffet and to top it off Dawn won $75 on a slot machine while we waited like sheep to the slaughter to eat like a bunch of fat pigs.
 
On the way to pick our son up from my parents' house we dropped by our house to grab something. Our dog Velvet insisted on coming with us to get Noland. For a dog of nine years and more gray on her muzzle with every passing day, she's a spunky old lady.
 
We get home with Noland. It's dark. Velvet sneaks off under the pomegranate tree while we get the front door open. When she gets in the house she does that scoot dogs do when they wipe their ass on your carpet, something she'd done at my parents' house. She's never had worms, but I know that's a sign. Without getting into gross details, that's how the eggs are hatched. I decided to go outside and check the gift she left us beneath the pomegranate tree. You know, just in case. If my dog is having an issue I want to know so I can get her the help she needs.
 
Noland follows me outside and I tell him to stand back because, like most five-year-old boys, he wants to get right up into what's going on. In this case, that would mean a shoe full of dog shit. Soon enough I locate Velvet's donation to the fertilization of the pomegranate tree and so does Noland. He says, with all the glee of a little boy, "It's a juicy one!" I chuckle. No worms. Looks like a perfectly healthy dog turd.
 
We turn to go back in the house and Noland says, "It's a fresh one!" He then rubs his belly and says, "Velvet made it in her oven."
 
I couldn't help bursting out in laughter.
 
Yep, kids say some crazy shit.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looks Like You Been Hittin' the Pus a Little Hard Lately

The following is a review of Shane McKenzie's bizarro novel Pus Junkies that originally appeared in Splatterpunk #5.
 
 
 
 
Shane McKenzie is a seriously disturbed individual.

Any author who describes a thick globule of pus as “custard” might want to consider a head shrinker.  Or maybe not. ‘Cause it’s that kind of warped mind that brings us such a nasty treat as Pus Junkies, Shane's first bizarro novel from Eraserhead Press.

Kip suffers from a debilitating case of acne that has earned him the grand title of the Toad from his jeering classmates. His cousin Zak, an instantly popular and good-looking guy, comes to live with Kip and his mother and decides he’s going to bring Kip out of his shell. When the students who have poked fun at Kip his entire life find out that the pus from his zits has intense, addictive properties akin to a one-two meth- ecstasy-like knockout, the tables turn and kip has to deal with hysterical popularity like he could never have imagined. That’s when the shit really hits the fan.

I’ve been a fan of McKenzie’s work for some time now. When I heard he was writing a novel called Pus Junkies I think I cackled, because that’s not only a brilliant title, but a cringe worthy and vile pretense for a story, considering the brief synopsis explaining that yes, Kip’s schoolmates find out that his pus is a drug, and yes, they want to “lick the Toad”. Ever thought about licking someone’s pimply face? Me neither. But let me tell you, that kind of nastiness makes for one hell of a riveting story, and not just because of the gross-out factor and the blood and guts. There’s much more to Pus Junkies than that.

Writing a book that is dripping with bodily fluids and ample with potential gag reflexes could easily become gratuitous and boring, and could certainly fall into the stinking pit of ridiculosity, however McKenzie, an author who is not only comfortable with extreme horror, but has cut out his niche there, knows how to do it right, and that begins with stunning characterizations that bring Kip and Zak to life. I’ve met these guys. I’ve known them, because they breathe from the pages no matter what kind of sick shit McKenzie puts them through. And that’s goddamned important, because sick shit without believable characters is just sick shit, and that doesn’t work for me.

Pus Junkies is a gripping tale that, if you strip away the blood, guts, and pus, you’ll find more relevant with every story you see on the news about a kid being bullied and taking his or her life or taking the lives of others. Well worth the price of admission.
 
***


If this sounds like the kind of crazy shit you're interested in reading then why not buy a copy of Pus Junkies or Shane's more recent bizarro novel Toilet Baby.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Robert's Random Musing #1

Robert's Random Musings is a new feature I will be writing here on my blog. I have a lot of time to think during the work day, being that I'm a house painter. That's one hell of a mundane job and I can only listen to so many books and tunes on my ipod, and even less talk radio, so the ol' mind gets a workout. This will be the place I can write some of those thoughts. Your mileage may vary.

***
Goals


Do you have goals? I think most of us do, but I have to confess that witnessing the population of San Diego through the eyes of a worker who is right in the thick and thin of it I have come to the conclusion that many people have no goals at all. Or maybe just one goal, and that's to do whatever they can to not have to do much of anything. Pretty sad stuff, right?

Most people have goals, though. I have goals. Goals for my family, goals for my career, goals for my writing. Some are long term and others short.

Though this year was kind of a dud for me writing wise, I hit one of my short term goals. I sold my first pro-rate short story. I was excited to get the email, but good news doesn't have the lingering effect one would hope for, at least not for me. Soon enough self-doubt is rearing its ugly head and I find myself questioning everything. But, as if turns out, I've already hit one of my short term goals for 2015, one I didn't hit this year. One of my goals for the past several years has been to have at least two pieces of long fiction published in a year. I already have two slated for release in 2015. My Gothic novella SALPSAN will be published by Damnation Books and my novel IN BLACK  will be published by Eldritch Press.

Feels good to hit a few goals and to start 2015 ahead of the game. I hope you're managing to hit some of yours as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Third Novel to be Published...

...By the fine folks at Eldritch Press!

In Black, my third novel of horror, has just been picked up by Eldritch Press and is slated to be released in 2015. I will be sure to make updates as we draw near the release date. Keep your eyes here and on Eldricth Press' website.

If you want a taste of my fiction you can read my story "Like Ants on a Carcass", available for free at Eldritch Press.com. Also, look for my horrific view of the pitfalls of addiction and success in my story "High Fashion" that will appear in Eldritch Press' debut anthology Our World of Horror. The full TOC will be posted on their website soon.

Pleasant nightmares!

-Robert

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free Story for Halloween

Well, it's the week before Halloween, so I decided to publish a flash fiction story I wrote a few weeks ago called Fitting In. Every year I have the desire to write Halloween stories this time of year, but I always have a difficult time rendering original ideas. For a holiday that celebrates the dark side you would think I'd be chock full of ideas, but that's not the case. I've always found Halloween a difficult subject matter for fiction. This year, however, I ended up writing two Halloween themed stories. One is an as yet unpublished story called The Beauty Mark and other is here for you to read for free. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Halloween!



Fitting In

By Robert Essig
 


It wasn't until my sixteenth birthday that I really fit in with my family.

Sounds crazy, I know, but, no matter how generous my mother, father and older siblings were, I couldn't help but wonder why I looked the way I did. Why did I look like the people outside walking on the sidewalk and those I saw on TV, yet the people who raised me and taught me kindness and trust were monsters?

 
***

I was born on Halloween night.

We all were.

So far as I know it has been some sort of ritual handed down over the years. Just don't ask me how that figures into the unpredictable nature of human conception.

We have a grand party every year on Halloween in celebration of all our birthdays as well as the holiday that celebrates the damned. Yes, I'm well aware of the Samhain roots (and yes, I know how to pronounce it!), but my family's origins came much later, and to us Halloween is a celebration of the damned.

"How'd your mask turn out?" my mother asked.

I gave her a cursory look and then a glance toward the hatbox on my nightstand in which the mask in question was concealed. I finished it weeks ago.

"It's perfect," I said.

My mother nodded. She was so beautiful with her beady eyes like the dark centers of olives in a face of dead green flesh. Her best attribute was her protruding nose, all crooked with the perfect wart on the tip, off centered just to the right.

There would be a lot of kids in witch costumes tonight. They would attempt to look half as good as my mother. As I look into those gleaming little spheres I see all the love she has given me and I hope that someday when I have kids I could be half the mother she is to me.

"I can't wait to see it," she said before patting my knee and walking out of the room.

***

Everyone crowded around the front door at the sound of the flat noted chimes that bellowed down the foyer.

It was midnight.

"I was afraid we wouldn't get even one trick 'r treater this year," said Uncle Rich. Bolts protruded from either side of his neck, one a half an inch lower than the other. His head was flat like someone had cut the top off with a guillotine. He'd never been all that creative.

"It's Julia's sixteenth birthday," said Aunt Patricia. "Of course there's going to be one. I never doubted it."

Aunt Patricia's face was smooth like a porcelain doll, half of it the perfect image of something like a Geisha, the other half cracked with chunks that had fallen out revealing the scaled flesh of the creature beneath.

I'd always admired Aunt Patricia's artistry.

The hatbox with my mask waited for me on a table at the front door.

"Go on," said my father, flashing me a fanged smile.

He and Mother had gone traditional, much like Uncle Rich, but with far more attention to detail.

My brother and sister stood like grinning sentinels, Jim with horns on a head of red flesh and she like a Disney villain of her own creation.

I opened the box. My hard work, blood, sweat and tears were inside. I'd spent almost a year working on the mask. There was a lot a of detail, after all, and I wanted to be sure that my destiny would be as pleasing to the eye as Aunt Patricia's masterwork.

I pulled the mask out of the box and held it up to my face. I didn't turn to face my family and show off my exquisite artistry for that wouldn't matter until the ritual was complete.

The doorbell rang again.

I opened the door, the fingers of my other hand firmly grasping the chin of the mask, holding it up to my face.

The kids were maybe fifteen. Both boys. One with a smeared skeleton face of white and black grease paint; the other with a deadpan Michael Myers mask.

They both took one look at me and dropped their hefty pillowcases of candy. Couldn't see Mike's face, but Mr. Smeary Skull looked like he might need a change of underwear.

Their fright caused my mask to tighten like someone was pulling plastic wrap over my face. I felt an instant of fear, even claustrophobia as the eye holes began to deepen and the mask seemed to want to swallow me up and lock me behind papier-mâché and latex. I let go of the chin. The mask remained fixed to my skin. Soon enough the hollows I had been peering through sank away and, after a feeling like someone had smeared clay across my cheeks, I felt comfortable in my new skin.

I turned from the lonely sacks of candy adorning the porch to face my family.

Aunt Patricia smiled and tilted her head to show the flawless half of her doll face, as if to praise me on my attention to detail. My mother and father smiled as well. My siblings grinned wider as if remembering their own sixteenth birthdays not so long ago.

The snakes that now roiled atop my head hissed their approval. My forked tongue darted over the elongated teeth that now racked my jaws. I put a hand to my cheek, running it down the fine layers of delicate, soft scales.

I have always been apart of this macabre family, but now, after my transformation, I truly fit in.

 


I hope you enjoyed that little Halloween tale. If you are interested, check out my novels Through the In Between, Hell Awaits, and People of the Ethereal Realm.
 



 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 of My Favorite Horror Flicks

In honor of the month that celebrates all things horror, here are 31 of my favorite horror films, in no particular order. Most of these films are serious favorites and other might drop off the list from time to time, replaced by a great film I have momentarily forgotten about. These days I'm not even remotely as immersed in horror film as I was maybe ten or fifteen years ago. When I was a teenager I had hundreds of horror films on VHS. I even set up two VCRs and taped movies from TV or the ones I rented that were hard to find. Lots of good stuff, lots of schlock, and many classics for the ages. Here's a sampling of my favorites:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) My favorite horror film. Simple as that. I first saw this gem at my best friend's house when I was fifteen. It had a profound affect on me. I was jaded as far as horror films go, having cut my teeth on such nasty treats as Hellraiser, Dead Alive and Evil Dead (all of which have earned a spot on my list), but TCM scared the shit out of me, and I'll never forget that.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) So much to say about this one, but I'll keep it short. Best zombie flick ever, and probably the most shocking ending in horror, even after all these years. This one holds
up.
 
Castle of the Walking Dead aka Dr. Sadism's Torture Dungeon I love cheesy fifties and sixties horror. This one fits the bill, though done very well even considering the bizarre forest of paper mache trees that have limbs protruding from them. Christopher Lee, an old castle, lots of sound stage echo...who could ask for more

Dead Alive This one has buckets of blood, enough cheese to top a pizza the size of Alaska, and memorable lines like, "I kick ass for the Lord!" Dead Alive goes great with copious amounts of alcohol and greasy Mexican food.

The Hills Have Eyes Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the desert. That sort of simplifies this film, but I'm going with it.

Freaks Tod Browning's crowning achievement. Better than Dracula. You couldn't make film like this one these days, not with the actual performers of old timey freak shows. From my understanding, the bearded woman was the only one who harbored any resentment about the film.

House of Wax (1953) The film that made a life-long Vincent Price fan out of me. I watched this one with my dad when I was fourteen or fifteen. I wanted so badly to watch The Elephant Man and I made it just in time to see the famous ending. I was bummed, but my dad said House of Wax was coming on next and that I should watch it. I'm glad I did.

A Nightmare on Elm Street I was a Freddy fanatic as a kid. I've probably seen part three more than any in the series, but the first one is by far the best. Creepy as hell, particularly the body bag scene.

Poltergeist Most people are shocked when I say this movies still scares the hell out of me. I'd seen it when I was young and though I found it startling it didn't do much for me. I bought it in my late teens, went home and watched it in an empty house and goddamn if it didn't freak me out.

Madhouse My favorite Vincent Price film from the 70s (yes, I like it better than The Abominable Dr. Phibes). This is sort of a period piece, which makes it all the better all these years later. Not only a horror movie, but a mystery to boot. This movie will lead you off in seven directions trying to figure out whodunnit.

The Fly (1986) Probably my favorite remake. Most remakes are a waste of time, a mere cash-in based on a cult favorite and familiarity with a title, but this one updated what is actually a great novelette and kind of a cheesy-ass 50s flick (nope, didn't make the list).

Last House on the Left (1972) This is one of the most shocking films of its time. Parts of this movie make you feel sick to your stomach (kind of how I felt after reading Ketchum's The Girl Next Door). The score is lame and the comic relief scenes with the huckster cops are cringe-worthy, but everything else about this movie is quite effective (the remake wasn't too bad either, but is ultimately unnecessary).

Halloween (1978) Some of the younger folks complain that this movie is slow. Some even (dare I say it) claim that Rob Zombie's remake is ... better. Naw. Carpenter's original is a classic, and I guarantee that more people watch this one on Halloween night than Zombie's version.

White Zombie My favorite Bela Lugosi film. He was my favorite before I was introduced to Vincent Price. The plot is insidious and evil and this could very well be remade into something that fits modern days, under a different title, of course (not by Rob Zombie though...).

Return of the Living Dead Next to Night of the Living Dead this is my favorite zombie flick. The gooey zombie that starts it all is fucking disgusting. Makes you laugh and feel repulsed simultaneously. Horror and humor at its best.

Re-Animator Now here's a nasty little flick. "Herrrrr-Berrrrrrt." I don't know if anyone else noticed, but Dr. Hill looks a lot like John Kerry. I had a hard time, back when Kerry and Bush were battling for the Presidency, not looking at Kerry and seeing him with his own head in a pan, walking around going, "Buuuuush. Buuuuush."

Hellraiser Everything about this move is great. The story, the score, the actors, the sadistic Cenobites, the gore. Part two was pretty good, but I can do without the numerous sequels that followed. I was, unfortunately, introduced to Pinhead via Hellraiser III. At the time I liked the movie, but now I realize how bad it is.

The Skull Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in an adaptation of a Robert Bloch story about the possessed skull of the Marquis De Sade. I haven't looked for this one in a while, but it has been hard to find. I originally watched it on the Sci-Fi channel during a midnight movie matinee feature they used to have on Saturday nights way back when. I taped it, then watched the VHS so many times that the tape snapped. I haven't seen the movie since, sadly.

Creepshow 1 & 2 I cheated here, but what the fuck. I like both of these movies. My favorite anthology films. Recently I've heard a lot of negativity about part two. Someone even complained about the thing floating in the water in "The Raft", saying it looked like a sheet of plastic. Yes, yes it does, a sheet of plastic with a mind of its own and dead things captured within.

In the Mouth of Madness One of my favorite Carpenter films, and a great way to continue the Lovecraft legacy. There are some genuinely creepy moments in this one, particularly the weirdo on the bicycle and, of course, the nice old lady in the motel.

Evil Dead Way better than the beloved sequel. I never understood why so many people seem to prefer the second instalment. It's good, don't get me wrong, but the first one has it all and doesn't rely on hokey comedy routines like a severed hand running around like It from the Adam's Family.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space I imagine a lot of people groan when they read the title, but this is one of my all-time favorites. The Killer Klowns are absolutely gruesome and hilarious at the same time, and the cotton candy cocoons...gold! The 80's were responsible for so many terrible direct to VHS movies and hackneyed slasher junk, but this one breaks that lame-ass mold.

House Always liked this movie. It's weird. I've always found old houses unsettling. It's an over used trope these days and the shit that is put out bores me to tears, but this movie always puts a smile on my face.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Not a sequel fan, but this one is loaded with win. There's some humor in it, particularly with Chop Top and that corpse he's always dragging along wherever he goes. Just don't ask what's in the chili.

The Gates of Hell I could lump this one with Fulci's Zombie and The Beyond, but really it's the one of the bunch I like best. Fulci seemed to be most interested in killing off his characters in unusual and memorable ways. I tracked down a lot of his films just to see how the people were going to die.

Tales of Terror This one is a collection of three Edgar Allan Poe tales starring Vincent Price, directed by Roger Corman. I have a great fondness for Corman. He truly was the King of the B's. This is my favorite of his Poe adaptations (next to The Fall of the House of Usher and The Raven). The Black Cat is especially good thanks to a wonderful performance by Peter Lorre. He and Price had great chemistry on that one.

Altered States A mind full of hallucinogenic drugs wile floating in the salted water of a deprivation tank? Yep. The intro to this movie is, particularly the title sequence, one of my favorites. I love the idea of tripping out in a tank and love where this movie takes the scientific idealism of the sixties. Ken Russel's movies are hit or miss, but this one is goddamn amazing. My favorite scene is the ceremony with the Indians and the mushrooms. The trip out scenes were creative as hell, all things considered. Nowadays someone would remake this gem and muck it up with CGI.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Another worthy sequel. There's so much to like about this movie even if the blood is orange most of the time. Even the cheese-ball music feels right. I'm so burnt out on zombies now, but I'll take this classic over The Walking Dead any day of the week.

Videodrome Way ahead of its time. Great special effect and such an interesting plot. I was kind of confused by it the first time I watched it, so I rewound the VHS and watched it again. The imagery alone is worth the ride.

Bowery at Midnight This is a vastly underrated film, tucked in the shadows of Lugosi's Dracula image. One of a few films I think could be remade if done right. I'd love to write the script. Seems like some of the inspiration may have come from H. H. Holmes (that could be a stretch, but, well, this is my blog and I'll stretch if I want to).

House of Dracula & House of Frankenstein Oh look, I cheated again. These movies are pretty much the same, and they're a lot of fun. My favorite Universal monster movie sequels (or whatever you call 'em). Better than all those weak Son of... Daughter of... run of the mill sequels. Only the Bride of Frankenstein, in my opinion, was a sequel worth its salt, and it could very well be in place of these two. The idea to put several Universal monsters in one movie errs on the ridiculous, but these are fun to watch.


So there you have it. I realize there's a serious lack of modern horror. Hardly anything from the 90's and nothing at all from the 2000's. That just reflects my tastes. I rarely find newer horror worthy of repeat viewings. There's something about the older stuff that talks to me.

Be sure to watch your favorite horror movie this Friday (if you're not partying, that is) and have a Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review of James Newman's Animosity

Below is a review of James Newman's novel ANIMOSITY that originally appeared in Splatterpunk #5. After the review is a breif interview I recently conducted with the man himself.

 
 
Have you ever wondered what would happen if all of your neighbors turned on you for something you had nothing to do with? Seems impossible, right?

Not after you read James Newman’s ANIMOSITY.

Andrew Holland is a bestselling horror author recently divorced and living on the homey street of Poinsettia Lane, the kind of place where the neighbors wave when you walk by and enjoy a quick bit of chit chat. They all know about their celebrity horror writer neighbor, though most of them claim not to read that “horror stuff”. When Andy comes across a murdered child while taking his dog for a walk, he finds himself the talk of the neighborhood. He writes that horror stuff, you know.

Though the police acquit Andy of any wrong doing, his neighbors begin to give him the stink eye. He’s warned that he should leave, but he’s done nothing wrong. Then he gets a threatening phone call and his car is vandalized and he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare.

Hands down, this was one of the most engaging books I’ve read in a long time. With breakneck pacing, a razor sharp plot, and a protagonist you care desperately for, you have the makings for something that goes far beyond the realms of mere entertainment. ANIMOSITY jumps out of the pages and into your mind like witnessing a true-to-life nightmare. You’re powerless to intervene, no matter how much you want to, so all you can do is read on and hope someone—anyone!—comes to their senses. But we humans are strange beasts, are we not?

This book will be especially adored by horror authors, not so much because of the horrific elements, but due to what Andy deals with and how he is perceived because of his profession. That being said, this one is for any fan of horror, mystery, or thriller yarns, but I think it’s so good that everyone should read it.

***

ANIMOSITY is a story about a horror author who finds himself ostracized in large part due to the genre he writes in. Those of us who enjoy dipping our toes into the dark side have, at one time or another, dealt with the question of “why horror?” Did personal experiences influence the creation of this novel?
 

Not really, at least not to the degree of the hell that my protagonist goes through in the book.  I guess you could say, though, that what happens to Andy Holland is a very exaggerated account of what we’ve all experienced at some point – we’ve all seen folks turn their noses up whenever they learn what kind of stuff we write or the kind of books and movies we love to read and watch.  There are always those who think that, just because you’re a horror fan, you must be obsessed with death and gore.  Surely you’re a little bit “weird”!

Thank God, though, my love for the genre hasn’t put my life in danger.  Yet.
 
ANIMOSITY  is masterfully paced and it was clear to me that it would make one hell of a good movie if treated right. Have you considered film options or had any interest in adapting the manuscript into a screenplay?

Thanks so much, Robert.  I’m biased, of course, but I agree -- wouldn’t it make a killer movie?!  There are only a few people who know about this, but it has been optioned for film a couple times.  Several years ago Mark Steensland and Rick Hautala (R.I.P., old buddy) tried to get a movie made.  They wrote a screenplay adaptation of ANIMOSITY and pitched it around, but unfortunately nothing came of it.  Their screenplay was fantastic, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with it.  Don’t tell anybody, but when I was polishing up the manuscript a bit for Permuted Press’s recent paperback/digital release I even stole a really cool scene (with Mark’s permission) that I wished I’d thought of the first time around.  I won’t tell you which one, exactly, but let’s just say that in the slightly revised edition Andy gets in a good lick when the situation starts really getting out of hand. 

It goes without saying that I would have loved to see a big Hollywood studio pick up that project (actually, I think a good indie company would have been even better as far as handling the material the right way).  I wanted to see it happen for Mark and Rick as much as I wanted it to happen for me . . . OK, almost as much.  (laughs)
 
It’s no secret that you’ve recently written a novel with Mark Allen Gunnells, whose work I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Is there anything you can say about that book and its future publication? If not (‘cause I know how hush-hush projects can be before the ink’s dry), could you give us even the smallest hint of what the story is about or how you and Mark joined forces on this one?

I can’t say anything yet, as the publisher has asked us not to until the cover art is done, at which point they’ll make a big announcement.  Last I heard, that should happen around the end of the year.  I will tell you this:  fans of coming-of-age novels like my own MIDNIGHT RAIN and Mark’s THE SUMMER OF WINTERS are gonna be pleased.  This one should put a smile on the faces of werewolf fans as well.

I’m really proud of this story, and can’t wait for my readers to get their hands on it.  Mark and I made a great team, if I do say so myself, and our styles gelled very nicely.   

WIDOWMAKERS is a brand spanking new anthology to help you and your family after an incident with a massive tree limb that left you with a laundry list of injuries. FANGORIA published a great interview catching us up on how things have been now that some time has passed, but there’s one question I wanted to ask in the wake of this whole ordeal: Do you prefer your books in dead tree or digital format?

First of all, I have to say how grateful I am for what you guys have done for me.  I still have a hard time believing that this was all for ME.  The genre is full of such amazing people (it really makes you wonder where that “weird” thing is coming from that I mentioned earlier, doesn’t it?  ‘Cause “horror people” are the sweetest, most generous souls I’ve ever met).

To answer your question, though – that’s an easy one.  I very much prefer the print format.  Although I understand why folks like them, I’ve never cared at all for e-books.  Just a personal preference.  I like the look, the feel, even the smell of a book.  I don’t even like to read on a computer screen, and will more often than not print out the work of other writers when I’m asked for a blurb, etc. (as was the case with your own kick-ass novella, SALPSAN, not too long ago).

For the record, I’ve always preferred the “dead tree” format.  And not just after my accident.  I’m not a vindictive kinda guy, despite the stuff I said in the WIDOWMAKERS intro, when I was pissed -off.  (laughs)

What does the future hold for James Newman? Anything coming up or recently released that you would like to share?

Things are kinda slow right now as far as new releases, other than the collaboration with Mark we discussed earlier.  But I promise I’m working on that!  I have a few things on my plate that I’m pretty excited about.
 
My first nonfiction book was published earlier this year: 666 HAIR-RAISING HORROR MOVIE TRIVIA QUESTIONS. I'd like more folks to know about that one, since it's kinda "outside the box" for me, if you will. And very soon a handful of my back titles will be available in digital format from Cemetery Dance Publications: OLDEN, THE FORUM, PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, and DEATH SONGS FROM THE NAKED MAN. The last one's another collaboration, this time with Donn Gash, a fellow I've been friends withfor over 25 years now. Another one I wrote with Donn, an erotic horror novella called LOVE BITES, is on the way via e-book as well. Details to come!

Thanks for taking the time for this interview, James! It was a pleasure. I suggest that everyone check out Mr. Newman's books if you haven't done so yet. There are links embedded in the book titles above. Also, consider purchasing a copy of WIDOWMAKERS, a great collection of fiction for a great cause.

Cheers!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rediscovering Music in the 21st Century

I've always been a fan of the sonic pleasure of music. I was turned onto music by the sounds of the rock 'n' roll and oldies I heard growing up. As a youngster following the cues of my misguided peers I was swept up in time-lost fads like Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. I find it hard to believe that I liked that tripe, but kids will be kids. Put a shiny enough wrapper on the so-called rapper and you got kids dancing like little fools to the beat of something that wouldn't, couldn't last. That's okay. In the long run, that awful music planted the seed that would begin to sprout at the moment I heard bands like Metallica and Guns 'N' Roses, and eventually the seedling would thrive.

I was a music fiend in the 90s with a penchant toward heavy metal, but I didn't shy away from twangy country, blues, bubblegum 60s pop, industrial, classical and whatever else I could get my hands on. Music was fun and being a guitar player caused me to open my mind and travel down avenues I would have scoffed at otherwise.

In time, though, my tastes for modern music dwindled. The bands I'd grown to love began putting out terrible records and the fresh crop of rock and metal bands sounded like they were playing guitars with broken strings and crooning to the contents of an outhouse. I guess that's a nice way of saying it sounded like shit.

I dropped out of the rat race for decent new music. In the early 2000s I regressed, searching for the roots of the music I so loved, and I found it squarely in the 50s and 60s. It's all there. In many ways you could call those two eras the very blueprints for all good music that has come since. All you have to do is listen close enough. Consider "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. If you close your eyes and listen to the guitar riffs, you can hear some of the very seeds of what would eventually, through harder rockin' bands in the 60s and 70s, become metal. It's all there. I listened for several years wondering how the hell people found the tolerance for the crap that was being foisted upon us at the time.

Now I'm completely removed from modern music. I can hardly listen to the radio without a gag reflex. I found something in artists like Amy Winehouse and Muse, Mastodon and The Black Keys, but there is a realization culminating in my mind that perhaps I'm just getting old enough to bitch about how awful modern music is. Maybe. I mean, there have always been fads that were less than appealing (I figure every generation has its "disco" that, for the most part, is better left in the dustbin of history).

After I burned out on the oldies I went back to my own roots (no, not Vanilla Ice, those were seeds). I delved into metal music and I haven't looked back. I decided to try out some newer bands and newer albums from bands I used to love. Two albums I have been enamored with are SUPER COLLIDER by Megadeth and INFLIKTED  by Cavalera Conspiracy.

The Megadeth album is infectious. It harkens back to CRYPTIC WRITINGS and COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION. I stopped listening to new Megadeth music after the steaming pile that was RISK. After all these years I am excited to hear good music from a band that I had admired so much in my teenage years.

As for Cavalera Conspiracy's INFLIKTED, this is the album Sepultura should have produced in the wake of CHAOS AD, which so happens to be one of my favorite heavy metal albums ever. It's good to hear the result of Max and Igor Cavalera burying the hatchet. I've been listening to this one at least once every day for almost two weeks now. They have a second album that has been calling to me and they are in production of a third. I hope they're as good as INFLIKTED.

There are always good tunes to be found, even if I have to tap old resources. I have a lot to choose from.

Cheers!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Like Ants on a Carcass

My latest story "Like Ants on a Carcass" is available to read for FREE at Eldritch Press.

I wrote this tale a few years ago during the recession. I'd heard two interesting stories about people taking advantage of others who had offered something for free. In one case it was an empty house like the one in the story. The guy who bought the house had hauled some of the contents outside and offered them for free. A neighbor was standing outside talking to the new homeowner when some guy takes a shovel from the neighbor's house and pilfers a plant, roots and all, from the front yard of the house with the free stuff. I thought that was pretty bad, and I figured I could take that kind of behavior to the next level, so I did. Have a read. I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writing is like Canasta

No, really, writing and canasta have some parallels. Trust me on this one.

For those of you who don't know what canasta is, it's a card game. It's kind of like rummy on steroids. There's are a lot of rules and it takes a while to feel comfortable playing the game without having to ask if you're doing it right. One deck of cards just isn't enough, so you play with two decks. You better get used to shuffling that monstrous pile of cars, and you better shuffle 'em good.

You might already see some parallels to writing in that introductory paragraph, but the meat of why I think canasta and writing are similar goes a bit deeper.

My mother taught me how to play canasta maybe twenty years ago. If I remember correctly we were camping at King's Canyon in Northern California. A friend of mine was on that trip with us and we both loved playing card games, so we were excited to learn a new one. My mom told us not to expect to win right away. In fact, she said it would be a while before we won. A long while. Now, that kind of straight talk will discourage some people. They'll toss their hand down right then and there and say, "Well screw it then, why would I play a game I know I'm gonna lose?" Because it's fun, that's why. Because you have to learn how to play the game and this game is far more skill than chance. The initial dealing of the hand is chance, but after that it's ninety percent skill. You gotta know what to do with those cards you've been dealt regardless of whether it's a bum hand or not. You also have to watch your opponent carefully. Learn what signals they give to indicate what they're planning on doing. These are things you learn after playing the game over and over again and losing every damn time, but eventually you get closer to the win. Your score at the end of the game is higher, and then you have that breakthrough and you actually win one. You want to dance and cheer and scream it from the rooftops.

Then you play another game and you lose.

However, now that you have the win under your belt, you play harder and one win turns into two, then three, and soon enough you're feeling pretty good about your canasta skills.

Last week when I played a game of canasta against my mother I took her to the cleaners.

But that doesn't mean that she won't do the same to me next time.

In writing you start off and you're told to expect a pile of rejections. Kind of sounds familiar, right? You're pretty much told you're gonna lose right from the get go, and I imagine that crushes a lot of people's will to follow their dreams of becoming a published author.

It's all true. I have a file of paper rejections from back when most publishers were accepting snail mail submissions. Now I delete them as soon as I log them on my submission tracker sheet. I've been at this for a number of years. I've published over sixty short stories, two novellas and two novels. In the past few weeks I made my first pro sale to Eldritch Press for a story called "High Fashion" that is going to appear in their debut anthology Our World of Horror. I sold my novella Salpsan to Damnation Books, sold three flash fiction stories to Post Mortem Press ("Names on the Sidewalk", "Meeting the Quota", and "Moonlight Sonata"), and sold another story to Eldritch Press for their online zine. That story went live yesterday. It's called "Like Ants on a Carcass". You can read it HERE.

Without any doubt whatsoever I can expect to find rejection emails in my inbox. I can expect to be disappointed. I can also expect to take those stories and submit elsewhere and eventually, dammit, I expect to sell them.

Cheers!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

TOC for Widowmakers, the James Newman Benefit Anthology

Take a look at those names! I'm in great company here, and I couldn't be more excited to help out by donating a story. If all of these authors promote the book when it is released (August, I believe), then I think we can sell enough copies to help with what I imagine is a daunting pile of hospital bills that James and his family are dealing with .

Here is a blog post from Brian Keene that explains what happened to James better than I could do here.

The title of the anthology is Widowmakers, which is a term used in forestry for a large limb broken and hanging or falling from a tree. Yes, it's a morbid title, but we are horror authors, so it's only fitting.

I will post more information once the book is released. It's going to be huge.

1. Blake Burkhead – “Widowmaker” (poem)
2. Bracken MacLeod – “In the Bones”
3. Brandon Ford – “A Walk in the Park”
4. Brett Williams – “Moonshine”
5. Brian Hodge – “Our Lady of Sloth and Scarlet Ivy”
6. Brian Keene – “The Ghosts of Monsters”
7. Charles R R...utledge– “The Beautiful Lady Without Pity: A Carnacki the Ghost-Finder Adventure”
8. Donn Gash – “Medicine Man”
9. Ed Kurtz– “Angel and Grace”
10. Elizabeth Massie – “Fear of Fish”
11. Evans Light – “Arboreatum” (novella)
12. Gary A. Braunbeck – “Iphigenia”
13. Gary Fry – “The Lurker”
14. Glen Krisch – “Gram Knows”
15. J.F. Gonzalez – “Home”
16. Jack Bantry – “Vegetarians Don’t Bite”
17. James A. Moore – “Dead Gods – Book One” (novella)
18. Jeff Strand – “Death to Trees!”
19. Jenny Orosel – “Peggy Sang the Blues”
20. John Palisano – “Splinterette”
21. Kit Power – “Baptism”
22. Mark Allan Gunnells – Santa’s Little Spy”
23. Mary Genevieve Fortier – “Beyond this Tangled, Loathsome Wood” (poem)
24. Maurice Broaddus – “Collateral Casualties”
25. Mercedes Murdock Yardley – “She Called Him Sky”
26. Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason – “A Church in the Middle of Nowhere”
27. Mir Plemmons – “Deafening Silence”
28. Norman Prentiss – “Burls”
29. Patrick Lacey – “The Lynnwood Vampires”
30. Paul Anderson – “Grownups”
31. Pete Kahle – “Meeting Momma”
32. Peter Giglio – “Cages”
33. Ray Garton – “The Guy Down the Street” (novelette)
34. Robert Essig – “Molting”
35. Ronald Kelly – “Impressions in Oak”
36. Rose Blackthorn – “Contemplating Corners” (poem)
37. Shane McKenzie – “Don’t You Want to Play with Us?”
38. Shawna L. Bernard – “Late Lunch at The Eddie Bear”
39. Sheri White – “Things Happen Here After Dark”
40. TG Arsenault – God Be Damned”
41. Tim Marquitz – “Sperare Victor”
42. Tim Waggoner – “Conversations Kill”
43. Todd Kiesling – “When Karen Met Her Mountain” (novelette)
44. Tom Martin – “The Kid in the Werewolf Mask”
45. Tracy L Carbone – “Hazel’s Twin”
46. Usman Tanveer Malik – “Hearts in Reverse”