Author Interview – Mark Cassell

UK author, Mark Cassell is the best-selling author of The Shadow Fabric, a novel so rich with dark mythos he couldn’t keep it contained in one book. From page one, I was sucked right in, thankfully not by the actual Shadow Fabric. I haven’t read a book so fast in a very long time and am eager to learn more about the world Mark’s created as well as the writer himself.

1.Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mark. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started as a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently?

I blame my English teacher, Mr. Brown – Damn, that was way back in 1991. He told me I had more potential than just the class jester, so I wrote a werewolf story titled “Moons of Blood” and gave that to him. At first he accused me of plagiarism, but when he saw my scribbled notes he soon believed it was my work.

2.Every writer I know is also a big reader. What books were you reading as a young man that got you started down this dark road of horror? Which author’s influenced you the most to become a writer yourself

It was James Herbert and his magnificent novel, Magic Cottage that started it all. From there, Clive Barker and Brian Lumley massively inspired me. And I guess you can’t be a horror writer without reading at least one novel by Stephen King. These days, I don’t read as much as I’d like, though when I do I may occasionally pick these guys up again. Back to my roots, you know?

 

HellcatHolt

Hell Cat of the Holt: http://mybook.to/Holt

3.As I mentioned earlier, I just loved The Shadow Fabric. There’s got to be a mountain of research behind this whole series. What was the inspiration behind the story and mythos and how fleshed out was your research before you started to actually write it?

 

The Shadow Fabric as a title came to me in 1992 and it remained precisely that until 2013 when I figured I was big and ugly enough to start taking this writing game seriously.

As far as the research goes, I began jotting down all the typical horror tropes we’ve come to drown in. Anything to do with demonology and witchcraft, I set about turning it all on its head. I never intended to rewrite history, it just happened. It took hours of head scratching, planning and plotting.

Though I must say, I am shocked and humbled at how well received the Shadow Fabric mythos has become. And it’s still unravelling.

4.You haven’t limited yourself to strictly horror, either. You’ve also done a book of Sci-Fi short stories. Tell me a little bit about Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. Can fans of this genre look forward to anything more substantial from you in the future?

The guys from Future Chronicles are keen for me to pick this up again so one day there will be more. It was through their cosplayers that Chaos Halo became a thing. Maybe there’s a novel there somewhere.

 

CompanyOfFalseGods_Cassell

In the Company of False Gods: http://mybook.to/companyof

5. You’re most recent release, In The Company Of False Gods, looks very intriguing. You’ve dubbed it Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror. Would you explain more about what that actually means and could you give us the elevator pitch for this latest title?

 

Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors, In the Company of False Gods is a novelette set in an alternate Victorian era. The story follows wheelchair-bound Attacus whose clockwork creation runs amok and leads him to the threshold between worlds.

6. Thanks for taking part, Mark. Where are all the best places to find out more about you and your work?

 

My website is the best place to visit: www.markcassell.co.uk

Thanks for having me!

More about Mark:

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous reputable anthologies and zines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric is closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. The novella Hell Cat of the Holt further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

The dystopian sci-fi short story collection, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers. His latest release, In the Company of False Gods, is a Lovecraftian steampunk horror story about one man who had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

Mark’s work has been compared with British horror authors such as James Herbert, Clive Barker, Dennis Wheatley, and Brian Lumley. Also, his influences spread over to the US where he admits to having been first inspired by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and H P Lovecraft.

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take.

We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. He draws you into the confused world of West’s new reality. Family secrets start to leech to the surface while the long, hot, boredom-drenched days draw West to explore places he probably shouldn’t go. The more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

I enjoyed being drawn in with West. Hunter did a great job of showing us the world as seen by a fourteen-year-old boy. That, in and of itself, was pretty frightening (and funny) at time. The secrets that dripped out were just enough to quench your thirst, just in time for another bout of terror to dry the back of your throat before another promised-drop of refreshment came into sight.

It kept me guessing and entertained throughout but it lacks that certain level of explosive and long-playing mayhem I’ve come to associate with Hunter’s cryptid-based novels. This was much more subtle. A much slower pace that pulled you in one little step at a time. I like that in a novel. It’s very much a slow-burn.

One  element I didn’t like has nothing whatsoever to do with the author’s skills or genuine talent, it’s the actual formatting of the book. I’ve never read a Sinister Grin publication before so I’ve no idea if it’s their normal practice to have the text double-spaced as it is here. It almost felt like a bit of a rip-off getting this nice, hefty book only to open it and realize it should have been about half the thickness had they single-spaced it like is normally done. I felt like I was reading a manuscript, not a finished novel.

All that in mind, I’m going to give We Are Always Watching

4 out of 5 Ravens.

Book Review – The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell

On the second day of his new job, Leo is witness to a murder. His boss, Victor, stabs his own brother, Stanley, with a mysterious dagger known as the Witchblade. But Stanley suffers from no normal stab wound. Instead he is drawn into what appears to be a black piece of fabric and is consumed. No body is left behind and Leo can’t rid himself of the final, terrifying image of Stanley before he completely vanishes. What madness has Leo gotten himself into by taking a simple job as a chauffeur?

The more questions Leo asks, the deeper he finds himself as part of the insanity. Soon, there is no escape. He must see this through to the bitter end. He wants answers, not the least of which what his friend Richard Goodwin has to do with it all. It was Richard who got him the job with Victor and also Richard who seems to know much more about Leo’s forgotten life than he’s willing to say.

The Shadow Fabric is an action-packed and fast-paced run through the underbelly of a realm of darkness, insanity, and a secret mythos that all but the very few are aware of.  Leo took my hand, gripped it tight, and yanked me along through it all right along with him. His fears became my fears. His desire to find the answers, were mine. The feelings of betrayal and hopelessness that he felt made me cling to each page, urging him to continue to fight and find the truth.

I’ve not been held so tight by a novel in a long time and am looking forward to reading more of Mark’s work in as near the future as possible. The mythology he’s created around the Witchblade and Shadow Fabric is rich and deep and there’s no doubt the depth will be plumbed even further in the other stories related to it. He left me knowing enough to end the story, but with the promise that theres more to this telling than a single novel can hold.

Check out the Book Trailer Here.

5 out of 5 Ravens.

Author Interview – Israel Finn

I’m pleased to be able to bring to you an interview with the author of “Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs”, a collection of twelve imaginative short stories, Israel Finn. He is the winner of the 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition and lives in Southern California.

Q: Every writer has a story on how it all began for them. When did you first begin to realize you had a knack for story telling? Was there someone that influenced\encouraged you down the path of being a writer?

A: I can hardly remember not wanting to be a writer or storyteller. It seems like something that’s always been there, inside me. My dad encouraged reading, but never really took my writing aspirations seriously, which was heartbreaking for me. If not for my mom, I may have abandoned my dreams early on, but probably not. Dreams are persistent that way. But my mom always made me believe I could do anything I wanted. She knew I was the odd ball among my siblings, and she actually nurtured that oddness.

Q: I’ve been asked many times which book of mine is my favorite, usually by someone trying to decide which one to buy. Do any of your stories stand out as a favorite to you? And why?

strandedA: There are two short stories in my collection, Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs, that really resonate with me. The first is the opening story, Stranded. It deals with a man who experiences dark karma because of an angry comment he made in the heat of the moment. That comment comes back to haunt him in a real way. I wrote it after my wife and I had an argument (can’t even remember what it was about now) and I realized the power that words hold. Sometimes we say things in the heat of anger that we don’t mean, but that we can never take back. Stranded was my way of examining that, and also trying to teach myself a lesson in restraint. The second story is The Present. It concerns a woman named Mary in the 1960s who is abused by her husband. In those days, women had far fewer resources and recourse than they do today, so Mary is truly trapped in a horrifying situation. But as tends to happen in my stories, dark fate intervenes, and she discovers a possible way out. Mary was real to me, as was the world around her, which began to change in profound and disturbing ways. There’s a touch of time travel and other-dimensional exploration in the story, which I’m a huge fan of. And it introduces the pale man, an integral character who will appear in the novel I’m currently writing.

Q: Though I’ve written a fair amount of short-stories, I don’t consider myself very good at it. Are you strictly a short-story writer or can we look forward to something of novel length from you one of these days?

A: I’m a little over 50,000 words into my novel, which is a gritty, realistic tale about an inter-dimensional traveler who is given the daunting task of saving the multiverse from collapse into chaos. I know “realistic” and “inter-dimensional traveler” would seem to cancel each other out, but it’s my belief that you must first establish a real world foundation if you expect your readers to buy into the fantastic.

Q: Some writers swear by an outline, others go at it much more organically. How much do you plan ahead for a story or is it something that comes to you pretty much intact?

DATTOML digital coverA: It varies. Short stories come to me almost fully formed, or at least with a strong idea that can be quickly worked up. But I’ve learned that writing a novel is much different, at least for me. And especially with the one I’m writing now, with all its detail. I think maybe you could write a completely linear novel by the seat of your pants, but one with a more complicated storyline, like my current project, you need some structure. I don’t micromanage every tiny detail, but I have set up the main plot points. It’s like architecture: The outline is like nailing the studs and putting up the drywall. The writing itself is more like decorating, hanging curtains and picking out furniture.

Q: Every writer I know always has several projects in the works. Can you tell us about any current projects you may have going on?

A: I’ve got a long list of works-in-progress and half-formed ideas, and I’m always adding to it and pulling from it. Right now I’ve got three in the works. One is a straight-up ghost story. Another is a dark time travel story. And yet another is about an artist who realizes that what he paints becomes real, so he decides to paint his dead wife.

Q: Where can people find you lurking on the internet and where can they purchase what you already have out there?

A: My website is israelfinn.com. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And much of my work is on Amazon.

Thank you for participating, Israel.

Folks, check out Israel’s collection of short stories, Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs. You’re sure to find something thought-provoking and slightly sinister, or both!

 

 

Feeling Panicked! YIKES!

After weeks of stalking, and under threats of being subjected to the constant drone of baseball playing fruit flies, XTina has finally broken me down and I’ve agreed to join her and James Longmore on The Panic Room Radio Show this THURSDAY, AUG. 10th at 9:30 CST. I’ll be blathering on about my latest release “No Rest For The Wicked”, doing a reading from the same, and possibly answering ten of the Eleven Questions. What other terrors will I have to endure? There’s only one way to find out! Tune in and have a listen!

The Panic Room Radio Show

Author Interview – Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason

Welcome to July’s Author Interview. This month we’re in for twice the fun with twin sisters, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, also known as The Sisters of Slaughter. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

  1. Every writer has a story on how it all began for them. When did each of you first begin to realize you shared a knack for story telling? And what made you decide to write together instead of separately?

We wanted to become storytellers before we even realized what writers actually do. Before we learned to read and write we loved using our imaginations and our dad used to tell everyone scary stories around campfires while we were on family vacations and that magic really stuck with us. We started writing stories when we were eight years old and the need to write never went away. We didn’t start trying to get published until we were turning thirty. We figured we needed to try, it was time to cast aside the self-doubt and go for it.

  1. There’s a set of twins in the town I live in that everyone agrees are a bit on the creepy side. They always dress exactly the same and you never see one without the other. As twins, why do you think other people find twins so unusual apart from the obvious? Have you had any experiences that you would define as a ‘twin thing’, such as the much talked about Secret Twin Language or something akin to mind-reading?

Being a twin is like being born with a best friend. We did have a twin language when we were babies. We would jibber jabber to each other and understand what one another was saying even when no one else did. We’ve often showed up for family gatherings wearing outfits nearly identical even though we never planned it and so on. Twins really do have a deep bond that goes beyond anything, our motto is “from the womb to the tomb.” That’s how much we love each other.

  1. In my experience, writers are also avid readers. It’s easy to assume you both enjoy reading dark fantasy and horror, but what genre or other types of books do you enjoy that your fans might be surprised about?

Our favorite genres are horror and dark fantasy but we’ve always read regular fantasy as well and we cut our teeth on Roald Dahl and Gary Paulsen. Books like “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien changed the way we saw storytellers when we were younger and Cormac McCarthy is one of our favorites. It’s important to read everything you possibly can, it expands the imagination and your capacity as a writer.

  1. I’ve tried a few times to write with others and it was always an epic fail. I don’t like other people telling my characters what to do, I guess. What is your process for writing together and who comes up with the ideas? Is it pretty much 50/50 or do you feel one of you is stronger in some areas than other? Is one person stronger with characters and dialogue and the other more into plot twists and describing locations and moods?

Our writing process is natural to us because we’ve done it since we were little girls. Writing with other people might not be so easy because we know each other better than anyone in the world. We share the mutual vision of what we want to achieve. It sounds strange but we’re like one person split in two. We don’t fight over pieces of the story, we compromise and work together always. We start by sharing our ideas for stories, whichever ideas and decide which one we’re going to write then we outline it and split up the work equally. One of us works on a couple chapters before handing it over to the other. We always read each chunk of work out loud to be certain it’s something we both enjoy. A lot of it is handwritten first and then typed up, that is our first draft. While typing if something needs to be elaborated on or taken out we discuss the change and proceed. That’s how we’ve always done it, except as kids we only had handwritten books with illustrations.

  1. I see you have new novel coming out with Bloodshot Books this summer. What’s the elevator pitch for “Those Who Follow” and do you have an official release date yet?

those-who-follow-kindle-cover “Those Who Follow” is a sequel to a short story we wrote for a benefit anthology called “Widowmakers”. The pitch is a young woman goes up against a serial killer who takes his prey to another dimension to torture and kill them to try to rescue a sister she never knew she had.

  1. Where can readers find Michelle and Melissa hanging out on the internet and how can we get a hold of your books?

We are on Facebook and Twitter if anyone wants to follow along in our shenanigans. There’s definitely more news on the writing front for us so please stay tuned.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sistersofhorror/?fref=mentions
Twitter:@fiendbooks
Sinister Grin Press: http://sinistergrinpress.com/authors/michelle-garza-melissa-lason/

In addition to “Those Who Follow”, the sisters’ first novel MAYAN BLUE was one of the five Bram Stoker Awards nominees this year in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

 

The Horrors That Grew Me – Vampires

Welcome to the first installment of The Horrors That Grew Me. Each month for as long as I can come up with ideas, I will be posting a blog about specific authors, actors, books, movies, and maybe even some personal experiences that have fascinated and led me down this dark and spooky path I now walk as a horror novelist.

Not long ago I wrote a blog called Why I Love Horror where I tried to explain WHY I love and prefer horror over romances, sci-fi, and other genres. Since then, I’ve given a lot of thought to being more specific because, believe it or not, not ALL horror appeals to me.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories involve sitting with my mom on a Saturday afternoon enjoying a show called “Monster Movie Matinee”. They showed all the Universal Studio classics, Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, Dracula starring good old Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman. They were the first to bring me The Blob starring Steve McQueen, and Them a tale about giant ants. In a nutshell, as the show’s title implies, Monster Movie Matinee specialized in MONSTER movies. My favorite monsters? Vampires!

If you were to ask anyone who knew me as a teenager what I was interested in, one answer they’d surely give you is, vampires. Vampires, vampires, and more vampires. I couldn’t get enough!

LeeDracCount Dracula takes the throne, but there were so many other books and movies out there about vampires other than those involving dear old Vlad. Everyone knows about Dracula and Bram Stoker. Though I wonder how many of you have read his follow-up Dracula’s Guest that was published in 1914, two years after Stoker’s death. Odd as it may seem, I never thought of Dracula as a monster. He was the misunderstood bad guy.  I always cheered for him to escape whatever method of destruction was being employed.  This is probably why I was also a huge fan of the British Hammer Films starring Christopher Lee as the immortal count. They may have killed him at the end of one movie, but someone always found a way to resurrect him for the next.

And talk about sex appeal. Oh. My. God. For as much as I love Lee as Dracula, I must confess that Frank Langella’s version of the count langelladraccertainly made my teenage blood simmer just a wee bit more. Here’s a little secret for you, especially any of my classmates out there reading this who asked, “Don’t those books scare you?” to which I’d dreamily reply, “No, not at all.” Dear friends, do you have ANY idea how much sex goes on in vampire novels? Yes, even back in the 1970s and 1980s when I was doing the majority of my vampire novel reading, the vampire genre was chock full of the sensual.  Hell, even Dracula was considered damned racy in its day with the wanton and buxom women going down on their knees and licking their voluptuous lips. But enough about the Count, let’s move on.

Everyone reading this has probably heard of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1976) and all the books that followed. Frankly, I got my fill of Lestat after Memnoch The Devil and haven’t read much beyond that of the Vampire Chronicles. I’d even bet the majority of you are aware that Stephen King wrote a vampire novel back in 1975 called ‘Salem’s Lot, so that’s all I’m going to say about either of those.

FeastOfBlood_CollinsI have a little book of short stories that was published in 1967 called A Feast Of Blood that contains my all-time-favorite vampire short story, Blood Son (aka Drink My Red Blood) written by Richard Matheson in 1952. Matheson always penned I Am Legend (1954) which I first saw as a movie titled The Last Man On Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price. I still prefer it to the Will Smith version. I loved Blood Son so much that for my pubic speaking class final, I chose it as one of my readings for my final … in a dark room, with a red spotlight. Jules, the young boy featured in the story, is totally obsessed with vampires. I found the story completely relate-able. The first time I read the ending I got all goose-bumpy.

DracTape

In 1975 Fred Saberhagen came out with a little something called The Dracula Tape. Love! This is Dracula told from the perspective of the Count on a series of cassette tapes found in the back of a car owned by Arthur Harker of Exeter, England. As mentioned above, another story that spoke to my sense of Dracula not being the horrible monster everyone makes him out to be.

ColdHand I have the short story Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal in the 1977 collection by Robert Aickman called Cold Hand In Mine, although I believe the story itself first came out in 1975. This is the tale of two journeys. The first is a journey of the traveling-across-land kind. The “young girl” in question, who is English, is touring with her parents in Europe, mainly to Italy, in the mid-1800s. The second journey, and the far more interesting one, is the mental and physical transformation of the girl from one of an innocent virgin into a creature of the night. As with Jules in Blood Son, the character’s thoughts and desires were completely relate-able to me as a vampire-obsessed young girl.

Anne Rice wasn’t the only author back then working her way through a series of vampire novels. I was equally as enthralled with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s leading man, Saint Germain. The thing with St. Germain is, he’s based on a real person. The legend of Saint Germain is explained in Wikipedia as:

Count_of_St_Germain“St. Germain, as one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, is credited with near god-like powers and with longevity. It is believed that Sir Francis Bacon faked his own death on Easter Sunday, 9 April 1626, attended his own funeral and made his way from England to Transylvania where he found lodging in a castle owned by the Rakóczi family. There, on 1 May 1684, Bacon, by using alchemy, became an immortal occult master and adopted the name Saint Germain and became one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, a group of beings that, Theosophists believe, form a Spiritual Hierarchy of planet Earth sometimes called the Ascended Masters.

Thus, according to these beliefs, St. Germain was a mysterious manifestation of the “resurrected form” (or “resurrection body”) of Sir Francis Bacon. Some write that his name St. Germain was invented by him as a French version of the Latin Sanctus Germanus, meaning “Holy Brother”. In the Ascended Master Teachings (but not in traditional Theosophy), the Master R, or the Master Rakóczi, also known as the Great Divine Director (a term introduced by Guy Ballard in the 1930s) is a separate and distinct being from St. Germain – the Master Rakoczi is regarded in the Ascended Master Teachings as a name used by the Great Divine Director when he was functioning as Saint Germain’s teacher in the Great White Brotherhood of Ascended Masters.”

Whether or not he was Sir Francis Bacon aside, there was a man named Comte de Saint Germain who was an adventurer in Europe during the 1700s with a very obscure birth and history. He was also an acclaimed occultist. Wikipedia has a pretty good biography on him to get you started if you’re curious about the real man behind the legend and the books of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Count of St. Germain – Wikipedia

What Yarbro did was make him into a vampire HotelTrans and with that she follows him on his various adventures through the ages and around the world. Starting with Hotel Transylvania in 1978 she published five St. Germain novels that were followed up with many, many other shorter works in later years.  Wonderful stuff, though be prepared to read a lot of description. Yarbro likes to put a lot of detail into what people are wearing and the world in which they live, at times, a bit too much. But still. She and her hero were certainly main contributors to my love and understanding of vampires.

A lesser-known George Romero movie called Martin is like no other vampire movie out there. Honestly, and I’ve seen hundreds! Martin’s parents have died and as part of his uncle’s family-duty, Martin is sent to live with him and his cousin, Christine, in Braddock, PA, a small town just outside Pittsburgh. Martin His uncle believes the young man to be cursed and immediately sets to work hanging up garlic, crucifixes, mirrors, and even arranges an exorcism, all of which Martin, rather sadly, shakes his head at, sighs, or just ignores saying, “It’s not like that.” The ending was a real gut punch. At my first viewing I just sat there, stunned into being able to utter only one word, “No,” with tears trickling down my face. It really is a must-see.

It’s hard to even fathom it’s been 30 years since The Lost Boys came out! Talk about my dream movie! Vampires on motorcycles! Who could ask for more? I was riding my own motorcycle back in those days (1985 Honda Rebel, for those who are curious) so may have done a bit of day dreaming about such things while on the road. Not a huge fan of Kiefer Sutherland, but I’ll make an exception in this case. He was pretty hot as the lead vampire.

sarandon_dandridge

Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge

Finally, and to serve as a segue for next month’s Horrors That Grew Me, I must mention Fright Night starring Roddy McDowall and the oh-so-sexy Chris Sarandon as the vampire Jerry Dandridge.  As with Frank Langella in his role as Dracula, Chris Sarandon was, um …yeah. Is it getting warm in here or am I just having a hot flash? I’m feeling a little light-headed now, too, so we better stop there. You get the idea.

I could go on forever.  Once upon a time I had no fewer than 200 vampire novels and research books on my bookshelves. In recent years, I’ve whittled that down to about thirty of my all-time-favorites while keeping all the research material. Although my totally obsessive days may be behind me, (to which my mother is surely saying, “Thank, GOD!”) vampires played a huge leading role in The Horrors That Grew Me. I’m in the early stages of re-writing a vampire novel I first had published close to ten years ago and look forward to sharing it with you sometime soon.  It’s time to release my own vampire bad boy back into the night again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment. I look forward to writing again next month on the actor I so adore and his role in growing my love of horror – Roddy McDowall.

Reviews – Two Books & A Movie

According to my Blog Calendar, this is the weekend I should be posting some sort of review, be it a book or a movie. This time around, being as I’ve been so intent on finishing up the first draft of my next Barnesville Chronicle novel this past month, reading anything too long and deep just hasn’t happened.

I haven’t watched any movies worth reviewing. Unless stating that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen isn’t my cup of tea, counts as a review. Technically it’s not a Monty Python movie, but Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle were both involved in its creation, as was Robin Williams! You’d think with that sort of line-up, it’d be something more amazing than I found it to be. It just left me confused and wondering what sort of drug Gilliam was on when he came up with all this. About halfway through, I decided I had more interesting things to do, like sort through my dresser for old clothes worthy of being donated somewhere.

Moving along, I did do a bit of reading.

Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs by Israel Finn is a collection of short stories of the horror variety. There’s always a touch of envy in me for people who can pull off a successful short story. In a mere 112 pages, Israel managed to keep me fully engaged and amused for about ten days. As with any collection or anthology, by even the most famous of writers, there are going to be stories that readers will enjoy more than others. I have to be honest and say that there were a few in this collection I didn’t quite ‘get’ or felt like they were lacking somehow. However, the majority of them I thoroughly enjoyed and enough so that I’d easily consider picking up more work from this up-and-coming author. My biggest complaint about this book is that it was far, far too short.

Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea was another quick read for me, coming in at 141 pages. Hunter is a pro at sucking the reader in and half-chewing them before spitting them back out covered in blood, goo, and whatever other sorts of partially digested stomach contents may have been in there at the time. And I mean that in nicest way possible. If you enjoy monster killing mayhem and madness, you really should check out not just Loch Ness Revenge, but all his other cryptid tales. I have the same complaint with this as I did Israel’s book – too short. I wanted more details about the characters and their lives, but with these shorter books, Hunter’s skills and talents as a story teller aren’t being put to their full potential. I really do prefer his novel length works. For me, a story is only as good as how well I get to know the players.

Short and sweet this time around, folks. I have some thicker works reaching the top of my TBR pile now and with first draft of my latest Barnesville Chronicle, The Witch’s Backbone finally done, maybe I’ll find some breathing room to do more reading.

My Writer’s Book Bag

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of May already. Spring has been desperately trying to spring here in the Northeast. Here’s hoping our recent bought of warm and sunny weather is going to stick this time! April proved to bring us a plethora of rain. May has certainly blessed us with flowers. One of my four lilac bushes is literally drooping to the ground under the weight of its own flowers. The small murder of crows I’ve been trying to lure in with peanuts and cat kibble are slowly making a comeback by perching in the trees outback and cawing at me. Our back yard is mostly set up and ready to go for a summer’s worth of friends, family, evening fires, fair weather, and food. In between all of that, along with writing and submitting a couple novels and a bit of dark poetry to some publishers – one of which has already been accepted – I’ve managed to get in some reading time.

In last month’s Book Bag, I’d just started Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles. I’m happy to report, I’ve emerged victorious from this adventure into some serious literary analysis, yes, Sigmund Freud even showed up! It reminded me way too much of all those English classes where the instructor insists that the color of the chairs is symbolic of the four Cardinal directions as specified in some mystic’s dream book from the early 15th century. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t use a lot of symbolism when I write and the one time I tried to be clever that way, I got so bogged down in trying to remember what represented what that I completely lost track of where I wanted to go with the plot. I tend to believe the chair was blue, red, yellow, or green because the writer liked that particular color and thought it would be nice, but maybe that’s just me. That aside, I learned the difference between ‘horror’ and ‘terror’ as it was defined back in the late 1700s and that Romances weren’t considered Novels. An interesting and educational read despite the academic dryness.

While slogging my way through that, I managed to get in some good old short stories from Israel Finn’s collection, Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs. I’ve been eyeballing this book for a good long while and finally decided it was time to give it a read. As with any collection or anthology, you’re going to find some you really enjoy, some that leave you confused, or some that just don’t hit the spot. Happily, most of Finn’s stories were very enjoyable and better still, memorable! My biggest complaint on this one is that it was way, way too short! I’m hoping to add more of Israel’s work to the TBR pile in the future.

I recently dove back into the dark and murky depths of another Hunter Shea cryptid book. This time it’s poor old Nessie that he’s picking on. Hot on Shea’s aquatic tail (see what I did there?) is a Lyle Blackburn book that takes us beyond the realm of Boggy Creek to look at other cryptids of the ‘Squatchier kind found deep in the American South, but we’ll save any further details on those for next month.

2017 Bookshelf-To-Date

January
Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

February
Maledicus by Charles F. French

March
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe,
The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn

April
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

May
Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles
Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs by Israel Finn
Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea

Author Interview – Hunter Shea

Welcome to the fifth installment of my monthly Author Interviews! Over the past year, the works of Hunter Shea have pretty much dominated my reading list. It all began by answering a simple call to be part of a Blog Tour in which I’d receive a book, read it, and review it within a given time frame. I was sent Island of the Forbidden, a lovely romp on an isolated island with murderous ghosts! About two days ago, I started one of his cryptid tales, Loch Ness Revenge.  I’m never disappointed when it comes to a Hunter Shea novel. We’ve chatted and emailed on and off, me usually seeking advice, and he graciously giving it. So you can imagine my delight when he quickly accepted my request for an interview!

And so, without further delay … Here’s Hunter!

1. Every writer has a story on how it all began for them. When did you first begin to realize you had a knack for story telling? Was there someone that influenced\encouraged you down the path to being a writer?

HunterShea

Horror Author – Hunter Shea

I’ve always been a huge reader and fan of horror. At one time, I dreamt of being a horror director, back when Jason was terrorizing the silver screen. I wrote awful stories and worse poems and songs, then college came along and I discovered free kegs and ten cent wings and my creativity was funneled into creating party themes. It wasn’t until I got my first horrible, soul-deadening corporate job that I got the itch to write. My good friend Norm Hendricks was writing a horror novel in the cubicle next to me and I got curious. Norm is the one who got me sucked into this, and I thank him all the time. It became an addiction, and I have no desire to kick the habit. Of course, it took me years before I wrote anything worth a damn, but that’s part of the journey.

2. As kids we’re always being asked what we want to be when we grow up. Beyond writing, what other careers did you have in mind for yourself?

From about 9 until 14, if people asked me what I was going to be, I would tell them a Playboy photographer (much to my mother’s chagrin – I think dad was proud). Then I wanted to pitch in the major leagues for a while, until college where I studied to be on the radio, either as a DJ or engineer. I’d secretly always wanted to do that ever since WKRP in Cincinnati came on the air. Once I realized how little the job paid, I gave that up. Funny how everything in radio has changed. Everything I learned back then is now obsolete. I was a master at splicing tape.

3. Really looking forward to reading your latest release We Are Always Watching.  While writing it, you mentioned to me that some of it’s based on real events.  Can you give more details on that?

we-are-always-watching-tour-graphic

Hunter’s Latest Release

Sure. The whole idea was inspired by what’s still happening to this house in New Jersey. A couple bought a million dollar home in a sweet little suburb, only to find out someone who calls themselves The Watcher claims the house and all who inhabit it are his. The Watcher leaves cryptic, terrifying notes all around the house. The family picked up and ran for the hills. They’ve been trying to have the house razed but have been turned down by the town zoning board. They rented it out to someone else, who recently started getting even more sinister notes from The Watcher. Crazy stuff. And it’s scary, because it’s really happening.

4. You and Jack Campisi have a podcast called Monster Men over on YouTube. How did you two meet and what made you decide to create the show together?

We worked together at a technology company. When we found out we both owned and loved the Spider-Man rock opera album as kids, we were bonded for life. We loooove horror, and talked about it all the time. Once podcasting became a thing, we decided to just go for it and let the world watch 2 horror fans, who’ve had a few drinks, talk about the genre. We’re 120 episodes in and counting, which isn’t easy considering it’s a video podcast.

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Hunter & Jack – The Monster Men

5. They say authors often put themselves into at least one of their characters in every book. Is this something you’ve experienced? If so, which of your characters do you feel most resembles yourself?

Oh, hell yeah. Bits of us are scattered like ashes across the pages of each and every single book. John Backman in Forest of Shadows was all me, complete with crippling anxiety (which I beat, unlike poor John). There’s a lot of me and one of my daughters in West Ridley in We Are Always Watching. Strangely enough, I’d go so far as to say you’ll find pieces of me in Jessica Backman in Sinister Entity and Island of the Forbidden. It’s impossible not to take from yourself and imbue it within your characters. It also helps give true notes of authenticity to the work. Readers know when you’re totally faking it and when you speak from experience.

6. What’s next for Hunter Shea? Can we look forward to more cryptid-based tales or are you going to go in a different direction for a while?

Oh, so much. This summer, my series of novelettes will come out through Lyrical Press. They’re based on the crap you could buy in comic books in the 70s and 80s. They’re called Just Add Water, Optical Delusion and Money Back Guarantee, and they’re pure campy fun. Megalodon in Paradise will be released through Severed Press this summer. Sure to be a pleasing beach read. I have a few other special releases up my sleeve. Folks need to stay tuned and see what’s in store. Hope you all hop on over to www.huntershea.com and join my Dark Hunter Newsletter to get the inside scoop. Oh, and I give lots of free stuff away to subscribers, too. 😉

Thanks so much, Hunter for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions! It was great learning just a bit more about the man behind the monster madness!

Next month I’ll be grilling author Jason J. Nugent – low and slow with just a touch of lemon pepper!

Until then … Write On!