Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thoughts on A Choir of Ill Children

I am going to attempt to post some thoughts on every book I read this year. In addition, I am attempting to read one book per week. I'm a terribly slow reader, so this will be difficult. Audio books are our friends. This is the first book, and though it may seem I am behind, I have finished a second book and am halfway through books four and five. Right on track. These posts will be my thoughts, not reviews. I did reviews for SplatterpunkZine for a while and found that I'm not reviewer material. But I would like to share my thoughts, so here they are.

A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli

I've read, or attempted to read, several Piccirilli novels. The Night Class was fantastic. I couldn't get into Dark Father. Hexes was a mess. A Choir of Ill Children, however . . . I'm not sure what to think. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Present tense always throws me, but I can get over that. The author did a great job with it, actually. The setting is just straight out weird, with all kinds of oddball characters that kept me thinking "what the fuck?!" Why did these people do what they did? What kind of weirdo town is this?

Honestly, I'm not even sure what the story was about. It was interesting enough to read through without trouble, but it was like some mirror world to this one where everyone has pretty much gone insane. Maybe magic had something to do with it. Maybe I'm just dense. I dunno. The book kind of felt like a sequel that would have been easier to digest having read this first one.

Over all, it was a worthy read, expertly written, funny at times, and constantly going down bizarre, unexpected paths. I have a feeling that a second read would clear things up for me, but I rarely read books twice.

Remember, I'm not a great reviewer. These are just my thoughts. Since I tend to read older books I figure YOU have probably already read this one, so getting a detailed review isn't necessary. Next up is Gone South by Robert R. McCammon. See you soon!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Books I Read in 2017

Here's the list of books I read over the past year. Not as many as I wanted to read, however I started a metric shit-ton of books that I couldn't get into, sometimes reading as much as fifty or seventy-five pages before shelving them. I'm currently reading Tom Piccirilli's A Choir of Ill Children and Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell, and enjoying both of them. I read mostly older books this year. I hope to dig into some newer stuff next year, but my bookshelves are filled to the brim with good old mass market paperbacks from the seventies through the Leisure crash, so who knows.

1. The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale
2. Mischief by Douglass Clegg
3. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R, lansdale
4. Road Rage by Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Richard Matheson
5.Ghoul by Brian Keene
6. Wild Blood by Nancy Collins
7. Arboreatum by Evans Light
8. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
9. Once Around the Bloch by Robert Bloch
10. Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow by Robert Bloch
11. Water Rights by Guy N. Smith
12. The Captors by John Farris
13. Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinbourough
14. Odd Man Out by James Newman
15. Dark Gods by TED Klein
16. Prodigal by Melanie Tem
17. Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green
18. Spectre by Stephen Laws
19. Mayan Blue by Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza
20. Dark Masques Ed. by J. N. Williamson
21. The Elementals by Michael McDowell
22. Strange Seed by T. M. Wright
23. How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman
24. Flesh by Richard Laymon
25. City of the Dead by Brian Keene
26. Midnight Sun by Ramsey Campbell
27. The Dirt by Motley Crue and Neil Strauss
28. It's So Easy and Other Lies by Duff McKagen
29. The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx and Ian Gittins

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Review of SALPSAN

My modern gothic novella SALPSAN was reviewed over at Confessions of a Reviewer recently. They gave the book three out of five stars. Though it's not the most positive review, it's an honest one, and I can appreciate that. It's so difficult to get a book reviewed these days with the glut of material out there (especially a self published book like SALPSAN!), so I am grateful that Confessions of a Reviewer took the time to read my work and review. Though the book didn't fulfill the reviewer, he did make some positive comments concerning the prose and atmosphere I created. This review is definitely worth a read, so please follow the link and see what they have to say. And then, if you feel so inclined, head on over to Amazon and buy a copy. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can borrow it for free.

Here's the review. Here's the Amazon link.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Brothers in Blood on Sale and an August Contest

My latest novella BROTHERS IN BLOOD is on sale for .99 cents for a short period of time. If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, it is available to you for FREE. Grab a copy HERE.

The contest is simple. Whether you purchase the book now, purchased it already, borrow it for free on Kindle Unlimited, or got an ebook file from me for free, if you leave a review on Amazon by the end of August you can enter to win paperback copies of the first two volumes of the San Diego Horror Professionals anthology series (US only due to shipping costs). You are not required to leave a five-star review or even a positive review. Leave an honest review. That's what it's all about. One you leave a review, tag me on social media or leave a comment here on my blog and your name will be put into the hat. I don't expect to get a lot of participants (contests are always hit or miss), so your chances to win two paperback books is pretty good.

In short, read BROTHERS IN BLOOD, leave a review on Amazon by the end of August, enter for a chance to win paperback copies of SAN DIEGO HORROR PROFESSIONALS VOL. 1 and VOL. 2.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

You've Been Trigger Warned

How do you feel feel when you read something that triggers you? Maybe you had a problem with addiction in the past, maybe your ex was a drunk, maybe you were severely bullied as a child, maybe you have a unique fear, or maybe you were mentally or physically abused.

Maybe, just maybe you have cared for someone with a disability, and perhaps an extreme story that features some such person in horrific situations triggers you.

I've heard the term "trigger warnings" many times but didn't really understand what it meant. I mean, I sort of understood the concept, but for whatever reason I always pictured a gun trigger and wondered what that had to do with warning an audience about potentially offensive or harmful material. Duh. Certain subject matter can trigger a negative response in people--PTSD, depression, angst.

I just received the first Amazon review for my latest novella Brothers in Blood. It was a two-star review that mentioned various reasons for disliking the story including Kyle and Lyle Morris, twin brothers, one of whom is severely mentally disabled. The reviewer called the story "offensive." Now, I can laugh that off and use it to sell the book to people who want to read offensive material, but it got me thinking. I sure didn't set out to offend. In fact, Lyle Morris, though one of the antagonists, is a character who should have caused the reader great sympathy. I certainly didn't write about a mentally disabled character for shock value or to be cruel. That's what got me thinking about trigger warnings. The reviewer was triggered. Perhaps triggered enough to leave a negative review.

And there's not much I can do about that. After all, the subtitle on Amazon says: An Extreme Psychological Horror Novella.

Fair enough warning?

Look, I'm proud of this novella. Check out the book on Amazon and read the synopsis. If it looks cool, give it a shot and let me know what you think. If you have already read it , please leave a review. I'm not begging for four and five star reviews, I want honest reviews. Like the two-star review that's starting things off.

Consider yourself warned.

You can get Brothers in Blood for your Kindle or Kindle app an Amazon,com in the US, UK, and regional Amazon sites across the world.

Remember! Brothers in Blood is available on Kindle Unlimited for FREE. You can't beat that with a dead rat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monthy Newsletter #5 July 2017

Welcome back to my monthly newsletter. Maybe I should call it a newsblog, yes? Before getting to the usual news, reviews, and writerly goodness, I would like to thank everyone who has purchased, borrowed on Kindle Unlimited, or otherwise supported my latest horror novella Brothers in Blood over the past month and a half. This novella has had a better opening than anything I have published. I'm not saying I can quit my day job and write full time or anything, but I can maybe buy a better bottle of whiskey and a lobster dinner. Maybe. At any rate, thanks to everyone who shared a social media post or bought the book. Page reads on Kindle Unlimited have been fantastic. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there are NO Amazon reviews. I'm not going to lose sleep over this, but if you read the novella I would greatly appreciate an honest review. Thanks!


The latest San Diego Horror Professionals anthology has been released, this time with even more SD authors than before. My offering, "Brain-Case Soiree," is a Laymon-esqu story that follows a young couple in a strained relationship who decide to explore a long abandoned asylum and find something truly unexpected. You can purchase the anthology HERE in the US and HERE in the UK.

I'm fine tuning two novels that I am sending to two particular publishers for consideration. I have also started a story that I like to call a cross between THEM! and The Descent. The idea came from a recent experience at work and a conversation with my father during a recent visit to Arizona. I've put down another novel I was working on, figuring this one is more marketable. I'll probably end up writing them both simultaneously.

 Cool Read

I'm suggesting two books this month.

The Lucky Ones Died First is the debut novella from my pal Jack Bantry. I'm not only spotlighting his book because he's a friend, but also because it's a damn fun read. It's pulp cryptid horror fiction at its best. I think of this novella as Friday the 13th but with Bigfoot rather than Jason. I was lucky enough to beta read this one and was thrilled when I heard Deadite Press picked it up. It's getting good reviews, and rightly so. Purchase it HERE.

It would be remiss of me not to highlight James Newman's Odd Man Out. I bought the paperback a few weeks ago (a different sized trade PB than what I'm used to, but fitting for a novella), and read it in two or three sittings, which is quick for me. Not only am I a slow reader, but I have a young child. 'Nuff said. Yes, Odd Man Out is socially relevant, yes I'm a fan of Newman's work (and I consider him a friend), but more importantly, this was an all encompassing read. The kind of story that truly pulls the reader in and blocks out everything, creating a visceral movie in my mind. This story made me forget that I'm a writer, and that's hard to do, as any writer will tell you. That's the kind of thing that elevates a story. Animosity still holds its place as my favorite Newman read, but this one comes in a close second. You can purchase Odd Man Out HERE.

Featured Fiction

This week I'm going to tell you a little about a story published a while back called "The Nostalgiac." This one appeared in the Post Mortem Press anthology Fear the Abyss, which featured science fiction stories with a horror bend. It was great to be published with so many talented authors such as Jack Ketchum, Harlan Ellison, Mike Arnzen, and Tim Waggoner, just to name a few. "The Nostalgiac" was an idea I dreamed up long before I was invited to this anthology. I saw a pair of intergalactic grave robbers risking radiation to claim entire graveyards on a dying Earth. I wrote half of the story and left it there, not really knowing where to go. When I was invited to submit, I knew this was my only chance. All of the other sci-fi horror stories that I'd written at that point had been published. I thought through my issues with the plot,  developed the Nostalgiac angle, and treated it very much like an episode of the Twilight Zone (the story was actually compared to TZ in a review). I think it's my best sci-fi/horror mash-up to date. You can purchase a copy of Fear the Abyss HERE.

Book and Record Acquisitions

I bought quite a few books over the last month. The Ten Little Indians paperback was a nice find at two bucks in a book store I had walked by several times but never stepped inside. I think that and The Seed were pretty much two of the only horror titles they had in the entire store outside of some Stephen King and Dean Koontz. No lie. I looked through the entire store--literature, sci-fi, and fantasy sections--no labelled horror section!--with no luck. There were a few F. Paul Wilson titles, but I already had them. I was also pleased to find a hardcover first edition of The Kill Riff on Ebay (and very affordable to boot!). Here are a few of my finds:

Closing Words

In closing, I have some reflections about life and the genre. First off, the Fourth of July came and passed. I went to the fair with my wife, mother-in-law, and son. We had a great time despite insane numbers of fair-goers. Everyone was so nice. I think that was due to the Fourth being a more family friendly day, whereas an average night at the fair consists of wading through packs of asshole teens and drunk twenty-somethings who wish they were still asshole teens.

So I was looking over my files and wondering if other writers have so much unpublished material. I'm not talking trunked stuff, but novels and novellas that are good enough for publication (or at least I think they are). I have six novels (most teetering on novella status), two novellas, and five unfinished projects. I've been reflecting on how difficult it is to break through in the biz, even on a small level. I'm convinced that networking at conventions and writing conferences is better than blindly submitting to the very few respectable publishers who actually accept submissions. Of course, talent and good stories play a part, but I keep running that quote through my head that I've heard so many masters of the genre say: "It's twenty percent talent; eighty percent luck." The numbers vary depending on who's making that particular quote, but it can be attributed to any number of bestselling authors. I've developed a few fans. They contact me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and it's surreal. I've earned compliments (mostly for my short fiction), and some harsh criticism (don't we all). I believe in my work and I know I get better with each piece of fiction I pen, whether I trunk it or attempt publication. It's a tough business, but I'm relieved when I read some of the fiction being published and find that there are some amazing authors out there. At least, for the most part, I can see why my stories get rejected, considering the competition. I've been short-listed enough to know I'm on the right path, and I've had some of the best editors in the biz say nice things about my fiction. I have to remember this when self doubt rears its ugly head. Onward and forward and all that jazz.

That last part was long winded. Thanks for reading. See you next month!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blood on the Page and Blood in Your Dreams

You’ve heard the term “blood on the page,” right? Means the author tapped a vein for inspiration, utilizing life experiences, emotions, events for fictional fodder, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Makes for gripping storytelling, for crucial reality, for living, breathing characterization, though you wouldn’t know how much blood was on the page unless you  knew the author personally or said author pulled back the curtain, as Brian Keene has done many times on his podcast. At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most coming of age stories are fueled by the author's blood, veins tapped like kegs for ripe inspiration, sometimes maybe too much so, particularly for those who lived it, but it's not the only way.

Sure, I’ve bled on the page here and there, but let’s face it, ideas are all around us, buried in experience, hiding behind unusual facades, ready to slip into our minds and take root. I ask you to take this little ride in exploring the roots of my novella Brothers in Blood, because there is virtually none of my own blood on this one. It’s pure fantasy (set in the real world without supernatural elements, not sword and sorcery fantasy!), completely drawn from my imagination . . . and a number of outside influences. So come with me, let’s take a ride.

In a nutshell, Brothers in Blood is the story of Kyle and Lyle Morris, twin brothers who murder people for two very different reasons. One brother is mentally disabled and the other is mentally deranged. Lyle has a caregiver, Desiree, who finally feels content in life when her ex returns out of nowhere to torment her. Things happen, bad, bad things, and soon enough everyone is tangled in quite a messed up web of madness and perversion.

The first element of the story I came up with was the twin brothers, but originally they were characters in two separate stories, and they were inspired by an episode of Taboo or My Strange Addiction, I can’t remember which one. The episode dealt with a man who liked pretending that he was a baby. He wore diapers and bibs and even had an adult sized crib made for him. I started thinking about the awful extremes of someone with that kind of mental state and wrote two separate short stories, one dealing with a serial killer who dressed as a baby while murdering hookers with a giant bulb syringe, and another about a mentally deformed man with the mind of a toddler who kept the faces of those he murdered and stitched them together into a comfort blanket. The stories weren’t all that good. There was just something off about them, so I didn’t do much to look for a magazine or anthology to send them to. But the characters stayed in my mind.

One day it occurred to me that they were two very different people, yet so similar . . . like sicko twins. That’s when the seeds that had germinated in the writing of those stories sprouted into the beginnings of a novella. I developed a pretty good idea of how the twin brothers coexist and feed off of one another to achieve their unusual goals, sadistic and absurd as they may be. I thought about how these men got to this point in life and what kind of tragedy could have spurred them down such a damaged path. This was all good and well, however it occurred to me that I needed a protagonist, I needed a story. I won’t go into detail, because I don’t want to ruin the story for those of you who have not read it yet, but I decided that Lyle, being a grown man with the mind of a toddler, would very likely have a caregiver, particularly since he and his brother live off of many facets of the system from Medicaid to Welfare to cash aid. One of the requirements for some of the aid Lyle is receiving is having a caregiver visit on a weekly basis. Enter Desiree, a woman whose life is finally going in the right direction. She loves helping people, has a steady boyfriend, and has finally gotten over her psycho, stalker ex . . . and then she comes home to find a rose and a note on her doorstep, and her world begins to crumble.

I’ve always admired the way Richard Laymon laid down his stories, often with twists and turns that keep the pace ratcheted up and the reader turning the pages. With Brothers in Blood I intended on doing the same thing by introducing another antagonist, one with a fetish of his own. He’s a sick man with nothing to lose, which are perhaps the scariest of deviants. I won’t say much about him, because I’d rather he was revealed to the reader organically than here in an essay. I again went to shows like My Strange Addiction for inspiration. I’ll leave it at that.
Now, I have a story, I’ve written the first draft, but for the life of me I can’t come up with a title. I don’t remember what the working title was. I have about six unfinished stories with variations on “Untitled,” so I try to give each new story a fill-in title to avoid confusion. Titles are important, and I’ve not been very happy with my other book titles. Through the In Between, Hell Awaits? Michael Arnzen asked, at a convention, “So what’s with the long title?” Yeah, should have called that one Hell Awaits. People of the Ethereal Realm? Not bad, but… In Black? I kinda like that title. It was originally called Paint it Black, but I figured people would think the Rolling Stones were somehow weaved into the plot or something like in a Greg Kihn book. So one day I’m at work listening to Anthrax on my ipod. I was plotting the ending of the story in my head (I tend to plot while driving or at work, that way I’m ready to write when I sit my ass in front of the computer). I was listening to the album Persistence of Time. Anthrax fans might know where I’m going with this. The song “Blood” was on. So close to finishing the first draft, I was actually running possible titles through my head, and then the chorus hit: “Brother on, brother on, brothers in blood!”

I have my title. Yes, there are other books with that title (kinda popular with books on war and soldier camaraderie), but it fit the novella so well that I had to use it, and I have no regrets. It’s catchy, looks good on the cover, and fits the story very well. So, though I didn’t bleed on the pages of this particular novella, it certainly is covered in blood. In the first weeks sales have been good. Better than any of my prior releases. This pleases me greatly. If you have read it, consider reviewing it on Amazon whether you loved it, liked it, or hated it. The reviews help the book get traction, and, of course, I appreciate the effort. Thanks!

Brothers in Blood is available on Amazon for $1.99, or FREE with your Amazon Unlimited subscription. Purchase the book in the US, UK, or from Amazon wherever you happen to reside across the globe.