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.


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 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!