Saturday, July 20, 2019

Writing in Tandem

So I've been collaborating with Jack Bantry for some years now. It all started with a story I submitted to him for SplatterpunkZine. He liked the story but thought it needed something, asked if he could tinker with it and if I liked the outcome we could publish it as a collaboration. Now, I didn't know Bantry outside of a fellow writer who was putting out a cool DIY zine. Had that particular story been one of my recent ones I might have declined, but the story in question, it was called "In the House of Wicking" at the time, had been with me for a very long time, in many different forms. It started as a screenplay when I was in high school, then turned into a short story, and then was completely rewritten two or three times.

I liked the story idea, obviously, but I had to admit that something was indeed wrong. All my efforts with the damn thing were getting me nowhere. I told him to go for it, and what he sent back pretty much blew me away. Bantry had gone through and rearranged some things, added stuff here and there, and gave an emotional depth to a villainous character that was desperately needed. We were off to the races.

Since then we've sold a few short stories in such notable places as Dark Moon Digest and Year's Best Hardcore Horror Vol. 1. Most recently we've published our novella Ain't Worth a Shit with Sinister Grin Press, and Insatiable with Grand Mal Press. There's more to come, including a project with Death's Head Press.

Writing with another author is not something that comes easy for me in the sense that writing is such a solitary act. When Bantry and I started collaborating I was a staunch pantser. I don't think I could have written a book with an outliner, so it was a good pairing since Bantry too is an pantser. These days I write a bullet point outline to streamline my work and utilize my time better. We did this sort of thing toward the end of Insatiable because we found ourselves lagging a bit. I would be interested in collaborating with another author, but I've never reached out to anyone. Part of me fears that the experience might not be as enjoyable as working with Jack. We mesh well together. It takes some time to get a longer story finished, but I appreciate that we don't clash and have a mutual understanding of our process.

 The hard part about collaborating is that I become immersed in other projects when the collaborative story comes back to me, and I sometimes struggle to get back into it. That can be a challenge, especially when we get well into the story. It's not like I'm going to go back and reread the entire thing each time I'm up and need to get a chapter down. The good thing is that I can usually go back a couple of chapters and become reignited. It's a very different process from writing my own story, but ultimately rewarding, particularly when the book comes out. So, now that we have two novellas out and the reviews have been good, I hope you, whoever you are, give our work a chance. And if you do, please consider leaving a review.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I'm BACK!!!!

I've been gone for a while and now I'm back. No, I haven't been away from the writing community, but I did take quite a break from this blog. It's been months. Mostly I stepped away because I started a Patreon page. I quickly realized that Patreon is not for me. I don't have the time or know-how to promote a Patreon page and frankly there was zero interest. No big deal, really. Quite honestly with all of the writing projects I have going on right now I would have struggled to keep up with the work load.

So what have I been up to? A lot. I have a lot of announcements coming up. What can I talk about? This:

I sold a book to up-and-coming publisher Death's Head Press. What happens when sadistic punks see their former school teacher slip into a sinkhole? Find out in STRONGER THAN HATE. Unleashing 2019!

I also sold a short story to Death's Head called "Little Black Book Turns Red" that will be included in their Dig Two Graves Vol. 1 anthology. And there's something else in the works with DHP that hasn't been announced just yet.

What else? Well, I recently signed a contract for a project that I am super exited about. I'm not at liberty to make an announcement, but things are flowing smoothly. It's tough not even giving a hint, but my lips are sealed ... in fact I'm contractually bound to silence until my publisher gives me the go-ahead. Okay, my publisher has given me the go-ahead, but you're going to have to wait to hear that announcement on my forthcoming interview this Monday on Necrocasticon.

Oh, I have a new book out co-authored with Jack Bantry. It's called Ain't Worth a Shit, published by Sinister Grin Press.

Issy has become used to her new life in the UK, away from poverty in her native land. New beginnings weren’t without struggle, and sometimes the past comes back when you least expect it.

Mark dealt a little weed on the side, just enough to get him a few bucks and provide some for personal use. No big deal. Not until he makes a little mistake. Sometimes even the smallest error can turn into a dire situation.

There’s another world under the veneer of city streets in London’s Leicester Square, streets people walk every day without suspicion. Issy and Matt find out about this world in the worst ways imaginable, and they must fight for their lives to get out.
In this underworld, people Ain’t Worth A Shit!

 "Ain’t Worth a Shit is fast-paced, compelling, and entertaining on a sick horror fan level. It is a gruesome and disturbing story full of suspense and action." -- Bibliophilia Templum

Read the full Bibliophilia Templum review HERE. Purchase the book here: US paperback, US Kindle. UK paperback. UK Kindle.

That's all for now. I am going to attempt a weekly blog post, but who knows. I've never been very good about keeping up with this blog. People say blogs are dead. Let's prove them wring.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Send . . . More . . . BOOKS!

I've recently read my way through an interesting variety of books from non-fiction to sci-fi to horror to, well, more horror. Here are some quick little mini-reviews of each.

Blister by Jeff Strand

This is a fantastic read. A cartoonist takes a break after pulling a prank on some asshole kid. He goes out to his agent's lake house to cool off and learns of a local town secret called Blister. I won't say anymore about the plot. You don't need to know more. Just go into this story blind and enjoy the hell out of it. Strand gives a gut punch of a, well, a love story of sorts that examines the way people see each other and how terribly bad things can go when you're an outsider in a tightly knit community. Everything is all fun and games until someone finds a reason to hate you. Great little novella. Highly recommended.

Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum

Wow. What a gut punch. I've read most of Ketchum's novels and novellas and this one is right up there with The Girl Next Door and Red as far as the emotional distress factor is concerned. I listened to the audiobook and I wonder had I been reading the paperback if I would have put it down because of how poignant the material is. This is a story that follows a woman and man who eventually become married and have a child. The child begins to show some very startling behaviors and soon his parents divorce when his father becomes abusive. It only gets worse from there (not the book, but the circumstances in which this broken family finds themselves), and there were moments I cried, moments I wanted to stop listening, but I forged ahead. In the end I was emotionally exhausted. I don't do trigger warnings often, but I would warn anyone with young children to tread these waters with care. In the words of Tommy Chong: "It kinda grabs you by the boo-boo..."

The Iceman: Confession of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo

I hadn't heard of this guy until picking up this book. Wow. Not just a contract killer, but a straight out serial killer. To know that people like Richard Kuklinski walk the earth is truly terrifying. This one is prime reading for true crime and mafia fans alike. Gives a whole different perspective to mob life than a book like Wise Guy does. Kuklinski didn't just kill for money, he killed because he liked it. That's some scary shit. Also interesting is the guy's background. Makes you wonder whether killers are born or made that way.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

I'm not a fan of Blade Runner. I've watched the entire movie once and fallen asleep watching it maybe another two times. It's dreadfully boring. I was apprehensive going into this book, but it has such a stellar reputation that I figured it was a good jumping off point with PKD's work. Also, I'm not a big sci-fi fan, so I went in blind (outside of watching the adaptation years ago). I tend to prefer sci-fi in the shorter form from authors like Asimov, Bradbury, Matheson, and Ellison. Recently I saw a poster online for Blade Runner and it said: inspired by the Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Inspired? Yeah, sounds about right. The source material was way better than the movie, though I feel like I need to give the movie another shot just to see if it makes more sense to me now. It was a weird book, no doubt, but ultimately enjoyable. Perhaps a bit too short. It just kind of ended and I thought there was so much more to explore. In a way it felt like the plot wasn't fully developed, but maybe I'm just dense. Who knows.

Slugs by Shaun Hutson

This one was fun for about a hundred and fifty pages, then it became tedious. In my experience, these novels about masses of animals or insects taking over a town would work better in novella form. I felt the exact same way about James Herbert's Rats (which I didn't think was a very good novel to begin with). This was my first Shaun Hutson read and I enjoyed his pulpy style quite a lot. I am interested in reading something like Spawn or Heathen, but good luck to me in finding one of those vintage paperbacks. I mean, I could buy one of the newer editions, but I just love the feel of a good ol' mass market paperback, and you can't beat the cheesy artwork. I may have to cave though. Spawn sounds like a hell of a ride.

That's all for now. I hope you found something of interest in these little reviews. Maybe one of these is on your bookshelf right now. If not, most of them are available at your favorite online retailer. Grab one, sit back, and read a book.

Up next will be books such as Nursery Tale by T. M. Wright, Technicolor Terrorists by Andre Duza, The Auctioneer by Joan Samson (I feel like I've been reading this one for a while now!), and others.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Thoughts on Several Books . . . I Can't Keep Up

So my idea was to post my thoughts on each and every book I read in to 2018, sort of like little reviews. I figured it would be a good exercise since I've grown to despise writing reviews. Turns out I also dislike updating my blog. I know, I know, blogging is dead. People don't read them anymore. Well, I know that's bullshit because I see the numbers. That's why I still post here, albeit infrequently.

That all being said, I have read quite a few books since Stirring the Sheets by Chad Lutzke (awesome little novella--seek it out and read it), and I've decided to put them all into this one post with a quick paragraph of my thoughts on each one.

Savage by Richard Laymon

Great book. Very unlike anything else I have read by Laymon, and I've read a lot of his books. Still doesn't take over my top two favorite Laymon novels (In the Dark and Night in the Lonsesome October), but Savage is most certainly number three. A historical horror that follows Jack the Ripper from England to the American wild west, this story takes the usual twists and turns you expect from a Laymon novel and adds a rich story that I was genuinely moved by, at times feeling extreme sympathy for our hero, and even anger with some of his motivations. Those are the kind of responses I cherish from a novel. If you find Laymon to be to exploitative or maybe just too crazy, give this one a shot. It's well worth it.

The Amulet by Michael McDowell

This is my second McDowell outing. The first was his acclaimed The Elementals, which is one of my favorite novels. The Amulet, however, falls far from the bar I've set for McDowell. A great effort for a first novel, but nothing more than a weird slasher story where the slasher is an amulet that causes people to murder everyone around them when in possession of the piece of jewelry. Pretty much that simple. As I read I kept hoping for some amazing twist that would pay off, but nope. The story goes right where you think it will. I heard that it was originally a screenplay that he turned into a novel, and it reads that way. A slasher film with a twist on the trope, but no pay off. I think it would have made a good movie in the early eighties, considering that the most interesting part of the story aside form our protagonist's growing insecurities concerning her war-damaged husband wrapped from head to tow in bandages and her vile mother-in-law were the various ways people died.

Panacea by F. Paul Wilson

Holy shit this was a good book. Wow. Not my typical fare, the story starts out like a medical thriller and turns into something so much more. Wilson is a master storyteller, this we know, but when I read something like this I'm left in awe, wondering why the hell I even try. The plot is incredibly weaved like a gorgeous tapestry full of hints and clues as to where you're going, but when everything is unfolded, you're still taken by surprise. Books such as this one separate the bestsellers from the midlisters. If I could write something 1/10 this good I would be a happy man.

Life by Kieth Richards

I like the Stones, but I'm no super fan (I'm a Beatles guy). I love rock/metal autobiographies, so I thought I would give this one a shot. Kieth Richards, if nothing, is passionate about music. That was one thing that made the book lag in the beginning. He spends a lot of time talking about the music that influenced him. Too much time. That aside, it's a good rock bio. He doesn't talk much shit and seems like a fairly decent chap, though he most certainly has an anger problem. The legend of Kieth Richards is bigger than the man himself, which is kind of interesting. certainly a great read for Stones fans, though I would have rather read one of those rock bios written from the perspectives of all the members of the band, like the Aerosmith bio Walk This Way or Motley Crue's The Dirt.

Whoopsy Daisy by David Allen Coe

Stumbled upon this on YouTube and listened to it at work one day. Not a fan of Coe aside from the album he did with the Pantera guys Rebel Meets Rebel (awesome record!). Written in '97 just after his wife of 14 years left him, this is kind of a depressing book from a guy who is in a lot of emotional pain. He talks about being famous and what it really means. he breaks down touring and what he actually earns, and discusses some of the mistakes he's made in life. Most of all, he breaks down why he thinks his wife left him. Here's a man haunted by his past. if you are a fan of David Allen Coe or, like me, just like autobiographies, give it a read. I would be interested in one of his previous books that's a more proper autobiography. Apparently he's written quite a few.

Lowland Riders by Chet Williamson

 I made it very close to the end but completely lost interest. A really cool Death Wish premise about a guy whose family is murdered by street thugs who in turn kills one of the murderers and then lives in the subway system fearing persecution for his crime. I wanted to like this novel, but I struggled with it because I stopped caring. It's like two separate stories that aren't getting along together, almost as if the supernatural elements were just thrown in. I hate giving up on a book within fifty pages of the end, but I had to move on to something else. I might go back in a few weeks and finish it...and I might not.

Well, that's it for now. I feel like I'm missing something. I started a few books that I had to put down, so maybe that's it. Anyway, I'm reading Slugs by Shaun Hutson, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison, The Ice Man: Confession of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo, and The Auctioneer by Joan Samson. I like this method of short reviews of each book in one post. I think I'll be doing this from now on.

Happy reading, folks!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Are You Obsessed?

I have a book coming out on June 19th from Grand Mal Press called Death Obsessed. This is my fourth novel, and, in my opinion, the best of the lot. With a title like Death Obsessed, you would have to imagine that death has a lot to do with the story. And you would be correct. But on top of that there's a lot of personal stuff in the book. Not regarding the characters and their struggles necessarily, but the setting. C'mon, I'll give you a tour of the various settings in the book. No spoilers (the book isn't even out yet!), just a tour around San Diego.

A lot of writers use local backdrops for their stories. It's a smart thing to do, because you don't know any geography as well as you know the place you live. We take liberties, though. With Death Obsessed I took many liberties. I used a few places that do not exist anymore. We'll get to those. The story starts out in Calvin's apartment when he has an impromptu argument with his pregnant girlfriend. I have used this very apartment in several stories. The building on Madison Avenue in El Cajon was one a few of my friends lived in just out of high school. The building also appears in In Black and a few short stories. Different people live in that particular apartment, and I've never made a conscious effort at a connected world. I'm not really into that sort of thing. I just think it's a great apartment. I mean, it isn't. It was kind of a crap hole, but it works well in stories. The manager is always Mr. Fingers. He's an unreasonable type. Everyone calls him Butterfingers.

Up next is the Museum of Death. This was a real place in San Diego in the mid-nineties. I believe it now resides somewhere in Los Angeles. The way I describe the Museum of Death is how I remember it, though I only made the trip downtown to see the place once. It was a life-changing experience, seeing all those photographs of dead people, police photos, etc. There's a scene in the book that deals with a series of photos with a couple and a mutilated body. Those pictures are real. I saw 'em. I believe you can find them on the Internet (I wouldn't know; I don't search for photos of dead bodies...not any more). Me and a good friend drove down to the Museum of death in 1997. he had just gotten his driver's license. We were listening to Black Sabbath and taking back roads from El Cajon into downtown San Diego. Talking, singing, full of piss and vinegar. After spending a good hour or so in the Museum of Death we came out changed. Our minds were pretty fucked. It's a lot to take in, seeing all that death. The light outside seemed brighter and I was suddenly very aware of my mortality. I don't think we spoke a word on the drive home. Black Sabbath was even darker than before. Everything was darker. I remember driving home from my friend's house and just laying there on my bed thing about what we had seen. Life is fragile. We're not ten feet tall and bullet proof.

The next trip on our tour across San Diego County is Lakeside. A place called the Hall of Hell. This was a real place, described in accurate detail. Essentially it was a drainage culvert. In Junior High kids would dare one another to walk through the Hall of Hell. I'm claustrophobic, so I had no part in tripping through a jet black culvert. Story was some kid got lost inside and the fire department had to get him out. His name was Eric, but I'll leave his last name out, you know, for the sake of his reputation in prison. I remember being peer pressured to smoke pot at the opening of the culvert, but I was always secure with myself and not one to succumb to peer pressure. I waited until I was damn well ready before I tried weed. That idiot's name was David -----, and I'm sure he had a lucrative career as a car thief or maybe a meth dealer. he wasn't a friend of mine, just sort of hanging around for some reason. I can see the texture of his greasy black hair and weak-ass mustache to this day.

Another backdrop for a scene is Balboa Park. That exists. It's a cool place. If you visit San Diego it's worth checking out. Only one scene takes place there, and being that it wasn't a huge element of that scene, it's not accentuated and described in lush detail. I wouldn't even mention it here except that I like Balboa Park a lot. I don't get down there as much as I would like, but I always enjoy myself. It's a great place to sit in a patch of shade and people-watch.

 The building in which the finale takes place is completely fabricated, but was inspired by photographs of abandoned buildings: mental institutions, hospitals, houses, etc. I used material from an unpublished short story in those last chapters. It all came together rather well.

Well, that was the tour. I hope you got something out of it. But more than that, I hope you will consider buying a copy of Death Obsessed. The book comes out on June 19th, 2018. The ebook is currently on sale for .99 cents as a pre-order. The price will go up to $3.99 on release day. The paperback is on sale RIGHT NOW for $10.99 until release day when the price goes up to $14.99.

Remember those old VHS tapes with labels that said “banned in 40 countries” and “not for the faint of heart,” with titles like Faces of Death and Mondo Violence? Well, they’re back, only this time it’s a book.

This book.

Death Obsessed is Faces of Death with an identity crisis. Get ready for something mondo macabre! Back when he was a teenager, Calvin was into the morbid stuff. He thought he outgrew it, but he’s only a video clip away from becoming obsessed, and what’s Ronnie going to think about that? She’s not the kind of girl who digs cemeteries and dead things. But Hazel, she’s something else altogether, and oh how persuasive is a woman who knows what she wants. Drawn back to a place Calvin had forgotten about, and lured by the baritone drawl of Mr. Ghastly, who promises the much sought after death scenes classic known as Death’s Door, Calvin trips down one hell of a rabbit hole, and everything is at stake. Can he leave his nine-to-five life in the dust for some real action, or will he be left sick, all alone, and Death Obsessed?

"For anyone who dared picked up Faces of Death at the video store as a teenager or perused the atrocities of early internet shock sites like, Death Obsessed is a nightmarish trip down a rabbit hole slick with corpse slime and grave dirt. It's a supernatural glimpse at the deranged world behind the execution videos and crime scene photos and the people who enjoy them." -- Mike Lombardo, writer/director of I'm Dreaming of a White Doomsday

Thoughts on Stirring the Sheets by Chad Lutzke

Chad Lutzke's latest novella, Stirring the Sheets, out now from Bloodshot Books, is one of those stories that packs an emotional punch that leaves the reader with mental bruises that linger and throb when probed with thought. It's a story about loss, about moving on, about heartache. It's about the crazy that invades when we are forced to deal with those terrible events in life such as the death of a loved one

Emmett is a mortician, an older gentleman, and is suffering from the pain of losing his wife. He lives mechanically, trying to convince himself that he is all right, but is he? A body comes into the morgue one night and she bears a striking resemblance to his wife when she was younger. Emmett gets to thinking and...

Well, you'll have to read the book. I'm not giving away anything you can't read on the back cover copy, although the Amazon listing is rather vague. It's a quick read, a one-sitter, and that's not necessarily due to the brevity in length, but the insistence on gaining the readers apt attention. Everyone will find something in Emmett that they can relate to. And, unless you're a heartless asshole, despite certain extenuating circumstances and decisions, you will find yourself feeling for Emmett. I know I did. Chad does a fine job reaching emotional depths both touching and terrifying in their reality. This story could have happened right down the street, and you or I never would have known.

Now, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. The physical version is quite affordable, but never fear, it's also available for kindle download. Get a print cope HERE, or a digital copy HERE.

Up next is either Panacea by F. Paul Wilson, The Amulet by Michael McDowell, or Savage by Richard Laymon. I'm taking way too much time to post my thoughts on the books I've been reading. I need to get on it.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thoughts on The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a classic. It has been adapted into at least two films, one in the 60s that is pretty good and the other in the 90s that is a steaming pile of crap. I always site Jackson's story "The Lottery" as the piece of fiction that opened my mind to the written word (this is after reading King, Lumley, and whatever schools taught at the time, but getting no inspiration), and though that story had such a profound affect on me, I have never gone back to read any of Shirley Jackson's novels...until now.

My favorite haunted house stories are Richard Matheson's Hell House, Douglas Clegg's Harrow House series, and The Elementals by Michael McDowell. Reading The Haunting of Hill House doesn't change my adoration of those books, but falls somewhere in the top ten. I loved the book, but there was something about the ambiguity that eventually lost me. More than a haunted house story, this was the story of a woman losing her mind. Now, perhaps it was the haunts that edged her mind into the realms of insanity, but she appeared to be going down that road right from the beginning. In the end, I wasn't even sure there was a haunting at all. I do understand that this was intentional, and it sure did have my mind running overtime after finishing the book. For a book to leave a lasting impression is something any author strives to achieve (well, most authors--some just pump out the pulp and cash in the checks). For the lingering affects, Jackson succeeded, and I am always pleased and interested in downbeat endings. At the time when this book was originally published it must have been quite a shock, much like the end of "The Lottery". All these years later the shock is dulled by so many books that have come since, and especially by the film industry. Consider the end to Night of the Living Dead. To this day, after watching that movie time and time again, it still gets to me. It's not so much a twist ending as it is a nihilistic mindbend, just a straight out glass of half-full fuck you. I can appreciate that.

A great book, no doubt. Up next is Stirring the Sheets by Chad Luzke, The Hell-Bound Heart by Clive Barker and several others. I'm falling behind on these, having been so focused on my forthcoming novel Death Obsessed, which is up for pre-order. Only .99 cents until June 19th when the price goes up to $3.99. The print book will be available around June 9th for $11.99 until release day when the price goes up. Pre-order HERE.