Tag Archives: horror

Waiting on Wednesday (109) SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books you’re excited about with other readers and bloggers.

In celebration of San Diego Comic Con, which begins TONIGHT, I’ve picked a book that I hope to get this week, and even better, author Courtney Alameda will be signing it! I’m very excited about this book:

ShutterShutter by Courtney Alameda. Releases in 2015 by Feiwel & Friends. This book sounds like fun, it’s about a girl who exorcises ghosts with a camera. Cool, right? And check out the creepy cover! Here’s what the story is about (from Goodreads):

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

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Let me know what you’re waiting on:-)

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Severed Heads & Buckets of Blood: TECHNICOLOR TERRORISTS by Andre Duza – Review

Technicolor Terrorists 3D

Technicolor Terrorists by Andre Duza
Genre: Adult Bizarro/Horror
Publisher: Deadite Press
Release date: March 2014
Source: e-Book from author
Pages: 268

four stars

The nitty-gritty: Over-the-top violence, killer clowns with more to them than meets the eye, and a slew of carnival misfits that leave the carnival and venture out into the world, leaving chaos in their wake.

The bouncy ball named Louie had rolled further away and was watching from a safe distance and under the cover of heavy shadows. It was darker on this end of the block, but darkness suited Louie just fine. The congestion in front of Kurt Sadler’s house was as good a sign as any that it was time to move on from this place. But the limbo between haunts was the most agonizing part of being alone. Appeasing his lecherous proclivities was becoming secondary to finding a permanent haunt or, dare he dream, legitimate acceptance.

Author Andre Duza says in his bio that he is a leading member of the Bizarro movement in contemporary fiction. I’ll admit I had never heard of Bizarro until I read Technicolor Terrorists, but I won’t soon forget these odd and violent stories. This book is certainly not for everyone. The graphic violence is almost comical, it’s so ridiculously over-the-top, but it is graphic violence nonetheless, and reading it made my stomach heave more than once. What Duza does to justify this violence is frame it in a story about carnival clowns and other oddities, and seen in that light it works extremely well.

A collection of loosely connected stories, Duza starts the book with a tale about a traveling carnival, whose disgruntled clowns and the few remaining sideshow freaks are about to be thrust out into the real world. From there, we get to see the various characters out of their element and trying to survive without the constraints of the carnival. Some of the same characters pop up again and again, and I did like the fact that the first and last stories focus on the same character, a large stone statue of a weeping Jesus. I thought the stories ended rather abruptly, however, as though Duza was trying too hard to be clever by giving us a shock ending. And although each story features at least one character from the opening tale, I did miss the cohesiveness that a novel gives you. These stories are more like vignettes, snapshots of some very bizarre characters that are more mood pieces that a complete story.

But overall this is a well-written bunch of stories that will certainly go under the “new and different” category of genre fiction. Here’s a quick break-down of each one:

The Holy Ghost Claw—Harley Cooper, the head of the Toxic Brothers Traveling Carnival, has just acquired a new side-show act, one that he thinks is bound to get the carnival back on its financial feet. But the carnival’s clowns, a family group known as the Ton brothers, don’t like the way Marley’s been running things, and they want payback. The story starts out innocently enough, but soon turns horrific as the reader begins to realize that these are not your ordinary clowns.

Paper Cuts—After the terrible events at the end of The Holy Ghost Claw, the carnival freaks have been set loose on the world. One of them, an odd character named Louie 2D, turns up in a suburban real estate development called Utopia Springs Estates and begins to terrorize the people who live there. It doesn’t take long for this story to turn bloody, and after reading this you’ll never look at a rubber ball the same way again.

Technicolor Terrorists—The longest story of the bunch, this one focuses on the Ton brothers clowns, a bunch of the weirdest and scariest clowns I’ve ever met in fiction! A detective named Officer Mars gets caught up in a bizarre murder investigation and realizes—too late—that he is in way over his head. This whacked out story is crowded with murderous clowns who have more than one face, the mob, guns, and buckets of blood. Duza keeps the reader off guard by leaving us to wonder what is real and what isn’t.

Indo and the Killer Rockstar—This story features another oddity from the carnival, a creature named Indo who can turn into mist at will.  Indo sets out to help a rock star named Jason Sykes, whose music causes people to turn on and rip each other to shreds. When Jason is framed for a club fire that kills everyone inside, he finds himself on the run from various demented groups of people who want to bring him to justice. No clowns in this story, but plenty of Duza’s brand of graphic violence.

Drug Runnin’ Blues—The final, and shortest, tale in the collection, this is the only story that I didn’t really enjoy. Maybe it was just too short and ended way too abruptly. A man on a drug run is contemplating whether or not to finish the job—he’s worried about getting caught and going to jail—when some key events on the road help him make his decision.

Bizarro indeed. Technicolor Terrorists will pull you out of any reading rut you happen to be in, if only by shocking you with its blend of horror, dark humor and violence. Duza’s stories are an unfocused everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mixture that seems like it shouldn’t work at all. But in the end, I looked back over the book as a whole and caught a glimpse of the author’s vision. I’m not sure I understood everything he was trying to accomplish, but it was a fun ride.

Big thanks to Andre Duza for supplying a review copy.

You can find the book here:

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THE FRAGILE THINGS by V. Shaw – Cover Reveal of Part II

I’m very happy to introduce you to author V. Shaw’s The Fragile Things four-part horror serial, and to reveal the cover for Part II! I love serials, and you just don’t run across them that often these days. Shaw has already published Part I (and keep reading, because you can download it for free today!), and Part II releases today. Here is the creepy cover for Part II:

chandelier1

FragileThings

The Fragile Things Part II by V. Shaw. Release date: October 2 2013.

Have you ever had a friend you’d die for? One you’d kill for?

At seventeen-years-old, Jennifer should have the world at her feet. Instead, she’s an ex-heroin addict living in a council estate with Tony, her boyfriend and former dealer. Shunned by her family and friends, she dreams of something greater than she’s been given.

Beautiful and strange, Ebony has moved in across the street. She’s just lost the one person in her lonely existence to cancer. She’s also a centuries-old vampire, struggling to cope with murderous outbursts and the desire to be something more.

When these two lost souls meet, an unusual friendship begins.

But with the news of Morris, Tony’s sadistic best friend and drug-dealing partner, being released from prison, Jennifer knows it’s only a matter of time before his path of vengeance leads to her and Ebony, too.

With a cast of memorable characters, a village full of secrets, and a gripping story, The Fragile Things is a layered tale of friendship, hope, survival and what it truly means to be human.

This cover is amazingly well done for an indie book, don’t you think? It really makes me want to read this series, and believe me, I’m going to as soon as I have time. The Fragile Things Part II is available to purchase from Amazon here.

The Fragile Things PIAnd in case you are new to the series, you can easily catch up—for free! Today and tomorrow, October 2 and 3 only, The Fragile Things Part I is free from Amazon! Click here to download now.

About the author:

V. Shaw is the author of the short fiction collection, The Lady of Chains and Other Stories. Having reviewed horror films for FatallyYours.com, she now focuses on creating her own monsters.

Visit V. Shaw on her website and her Amazon page.

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Something Wicked Returns Blog Hop! Win a Copy of THE SHINING or NOS4A2!

Welcome to the Something Wicked Returns Blog Hop, hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings, The Nocturnal Library, Candace’s Book Blog and My Guilty Obsession! This hop will run for the entire month of October, and we’re celebrating the season by offering some pretty scary giveaways;) For my stop, I’m offering one international winner their choice of a paperback copy of The Shining by Stephen King or Joe Hill’s latest horror behemoth novel NOS4A2Here’s more about these books from two of the masters of horror:

The Shining2Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

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NOS4A2NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

If you haven’t read The Shining yet, this is your chance to catch up before you pick up Doctor Sleep, the sequel.  Rules: This giveaway is international provided The Book Depository ships to your country (Please check here before you enter to make sure your country is included) and runs through October 31st. One winner will be randomly selected and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. Are you ready to enter? Simply click the Rafflecopter button below:

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Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this hop:

1. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings(Int)~
2. Maja@The Nocturnal Library(Int)~
3. Candace@Candace’s Book Blog(Int)
4. Ali@My Guilty Obsession(Int)
5. Tanja & Glass @ Ja čitam, a ti? (INT)~
6. Jennifer @ Some Like It Paranormal
7. Lizzy @ Lizzy’s Dark Fiction
8. LAURA @ MUSIC PLUS BOOKS
9. Jenny@Supernatural Snark
10. Jen @ Under a Gray Sky
11. Ellen @ Always YA at Heart (Int)~
12. Beth @ Living a Goddess Life
13. Veronica @ Mostly Reviews (Int)~
14. Danny @ Bewitched Bookworms
15. Christy @ Love of Books
16. Darcus @ Rainy Days and Pajamas
17. Heather@Buried in Books (Int)~
18. Vidya @ Books Are Magic
19. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction(Int)~
20. Lisa @ Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Reviews
21. Kristin @ My ParaHangover(Int)~
22. Tressa’s Wishful Endings
23. Kim @ YA Asylum (Int)
24. kathy geiser
25. Nova Reylin @ My Seryniti
26. Jessica @ Jessabella Reads
27. Sabrina @ I Heart Y.A. Fiction (INT)
28. Marlene @ Reading Reality
29. Megan@Amethyst Book Dreams (Int)~
30. Danielle @ Coffee and Characters (INT)
31. Aditi @ READioactive Book Blog (INT)
32. Shah Wharton’s WordsinSync
33. Fi @ Bookish Outsider(Int)~
34. Beth @ Curling Up With A Good Book
35. Kimba@ Caffeinated Book Reviewer (Int)~
36. The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl (INT)
37. Jay @ Vailia’s Page Turner
38. Lisa @ I’ll Tumble for YA
39. Miss Angie @ My So-Called Chaos
40. Isaiyan Morrison
41. Tammy @ Into the Mystic
42. Wendy @ Wensend(Int)~
43. Dalene@Dalene’s Book Reviews
44. Mary @SweepingMe (Int)
45. Angie @ Books4Tomorrow (Int)~
46. Shelf Stacker (Int)~
47. Tammy @ Mug of Moxie
48. Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun~
49. Cherry @ Cherry Mischievous (Int)
50. Holly @ Words Fueled by Love (INT)
51. Mommasez…
52. Sarah @ Literary Meanderings (INT)
53. Diana @ Strahbary’s Fields
54. Kelly @ Have Book Will Read
55. Frankie’s Bookshelf~
56. My Paranormal Book Review
57. Deal Sharing Aunt USA
58. 3 Partners in Shopping USA
59. AimeeKay’s Reviews & Other Randomness (US)
60. J.A. Garland(Int)~
61. Ginny @ Gin’s Book Notes(Int)~
62. Book-Marks the Spot (US)~
63. The Revolving Bookcase (U.S.)~
64. Hot Listens (INT)
65. Laurie @Reader Girls )Int)
66. Belle @ Dilettantish Reader (Int)
67. Bookish Randomness (INT)
68. Natalie @ Book Lovers Life (INT)~
69. Tanya @ Good Book Gal
70. Susan Arden (INT)
71. SNARKY MOM READS… (INT)~
72. Donna @The Happy Booker
73. MYTHICAL BOOKS (INT)~
74. E.S.P.
75. Addicted Readers
76. Melanie Karsak (INT)~
77. Margo Bond Collins (INT)~
78. Jen YA @ Romantics
79. Book Sniffers Anonymous (Int)
80. Clever Girls Read (US)
81. Imagine a World (INT)
82. Books, Bones & Buffy
83. Danielle @ Ladybug Literature (US)
84. Aly’s Miscellany (INT)
85. Pabkins & April @ My Shelf Confessions (INT)

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Filed under Giveaway Hop, Giveaways

Interview with John Mulhall, Author of GEDDY’S MOON + Giveaway!

I recently reviewed John Mulhall’s debut novel Geddy’s Moon, a complex blend of visceral horror and coming-of-age story. (You can read my review here.) John was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and I’m so excited to have him visiting the blog today. I was also lucky enough to attend his book launch party a few months ago, and I picked up an extra signed copy of Geddy’s Moon to give away to one lucky U.S. reader! Keep reading after the interview for your chance to win this book.

Author Interview new

Thank you for joining me today, John!  Geddy’s Moon is quite a complex story. How long did it take to write the book from start to finish?

Well, I started writing it when I was 19, so in one sense it took a very long time! Truthfully though, although I used the basic premise and characters, even the rough outline from when I was younger, it was really very much like starting over when I went to write the book last year. I set some fairly aggressive goals in terms of output, however, and kept myself accountable, and I was able to finish the rough draft in just under two and a half months. The editing process and revisions took much longer, of course.

Tell us about your road to publication. What made you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?

I made that choice fairly early on in the process. It seemed like it was important to make a decision and commit to it, because ultimately it was going to make a big difference as far as where my effort was going to be focused: attaining an agent, publisher, contract, etc. versus putting all of my time and energy into producing and promoting the book itself. I spoke to many friends who’d gone both directions and, after those discussions, the path seemed clear to me. I like the idea of owning the rights to my ideas and stories. And I also like the fact that I’m in control of the effort I put into marketing and promotion.

The only downsides I’ve seen so far involve the lack of brick-and-mortar distribution, which is not a huge deal to me, and the lack of perceived legitimacy, which is a bigger issue, I think. There are so many people putting books on the market without even running a proper spell check that it’s easy to be suspect of self-published authors, and that hurts anyone who’s making the effort to do it right. That’s why I anticipate that boutique publishing is possibly going to become a bigger deal in the future. If being published by a certain imprint, for example, can become a mark of quality – when readers can be assured there’s been a degree of scrutiny, editing, and finesse involved before the book goes to market – that can potentially help self-published authors attain a validity that’s currently mostly lacking. I also think we’ll see more hybrid publishing deals where large publishers partner with self-published authors who have shown the viability of their work through platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct, and where the publisher picks up the print rights but the eBook rights remain with the author; there are a few of these deals happening now with some of the higher profile self-published authors and I’m going to be very curious to see how they pan out.

I was certainly impressed by the quality of your book, both in the carefully edited interior and the expensive-looking exterior. You obviously put some money into the book production, cover design and author photo.

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(**Warning: Mild spoiler ahead!) The paranormal creatures in Geddy’s Moon—the were-creatures—seem to be based on a couple of different myths. How did you come up with the idea of using a magic elixir as the catalyst for immortality?

I like the idea that these creatures – which I actually don’t really consider were-creatures, even though there are similarities – are part science and part magic. I think anytime writers take a fantastical construct and ground it firmly in the science that we know, it loses something for me. That being said, I like the idea that science plays a role, and I try to make sure that the universe is being examined from that perspective as well. One of Arthur C. Clarke’s laws was that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that’s always stuck with me in terms of telling stories about the fantastical; there’s what we know and what we don’t know…yet.

You used some very powerful quotes from famous writers at the beginning of each chapter.  What made you decide to incorporate these quotes into your story?

It was always something I wanted to do. I often chose the quotes before I wrote the chapter they preceded, so it felt very organic to me to incorporate them. I feel like the quotes give insight into the story that wouldn’t have been appropriate for me, as the storyteller, to say directly. Plus, I love the idea that using both historical and contemporary quotes gives the reader a sense of jumping back and forth in time, something the book itself does, and shows that many themes are universal throughout history.

What’s next? Are you currently working on anything else? I felt there might be some wiggle room at the end of Geddy’s Moon for a follow-up story.

There definitely will be a follow-up to Geddy’s Moon, but it’s not next on the “to-do” list. However, I will say that it’s roughly outlined and that I’m very excited to tell the story when it’s time. Fans of Geddy’s Moon should know that it won’t be a retread of the same story. I feel like that story was told and it’s time for something new. But I do have a lot of interest in telling other stories within the same universe, maybe revisiting familiar characters.

As for what’s next, I recently finished work on a short novel called Dark and Broken Things. I intended for it to be my next release, but I’m reconsidering that now. I’m not completely convinced that it’s the right book for me to release right now. However, I am quite fond of it, and I know it will eventually see a release of some sort at some point. In the meantime, while that’s being edited, I’ve written a few short stories for magazines and am trying to decide on the next big project; there are a lot of possibilities, it’s just a matter of choosing the right one.

How did you get started in writing? Do you also have a day job that takes time away from writing?

I’ve been writing most of my life, actually. I was very creative as a child and would create stories involving my brother and myself, which I’d make into little hand-done comic books. I wrote fiction when I was in college, mostly short stories and plays, but I also dabbled in longer form stories as well. But then I kind of put writing on the back-burner, and focused on other things. Strangely, writing worked its way back into my life naturally when I began working professionally doing media and events. I seemed to be the “go to” person when creative writing hurdles arose. But doing that kind of work was actually a blessing in disguise, because it taught me not to be overly precious about the things I wrote, and to work on deadlines. There’s no “writer’s block” when a client is waiting on a script. I still do have a day job working at a creative agency where I do similar work and I love it. It’s a balancing act with the writing, but I get to be doubly creative, so how can I complain?

Tell us three things about John Mulhall that can’t be found on your website.

Hmmm. That’s interesting. As an author, you feel fairly exposed, so it’s hard to think of new things that people don’t already know about you. Let’s see…three things.

One, I used to be an actor. I loved it, but I put it aside in college to focus on behind-the-scenes stuff instead. What’s interesting, I think, is how acting is probably the most similar thing I’ve done to writing fiction; you have to inhabit other personalities and get “inside” their psyche. So, writing kind of feels like it’s come full circle to me.

Two, I can make animal balloons. Don’t ask me why I know how to do this, because you’re not getting that much information out of me! Suffice it say that you need to keep your fingers nimble. I’m out of practice.

And Three, I’ve been studying martial arts, specifically ju jitsu, for over a decade, both Japanese and Brazilian forms; it’s something that keeps me active and focused. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be able to defend yourself, either.

That’s the reason I always ask that last question. Because sometimes I get an awesome answer like “I can make balloon animals”! Thank you so much John!

About the book:

Tyler is an amnesiac, drifting aimlessly across the country, struggling to regain his lost memories. When he arrives in Geddy’s Moon, a sleepy town in the middle of the Kansas wheat fields, fragments of his past begin to resurface. But as he establishes new relationships in town, and spends time with the local librarian and her son, he finds himself tormented by nightmares that grow more unsettling each night. What horrific events took place before Tyler arrived in Geddy’s Moon? And could he have brought a terrifying – and possibly supernatural – danger along with him? As the pieces of his fractured memory begin to fall into place, he fears that it may already be too late to keep himself, and those he’s begun to care about, safe from a vicious evil.

Find Geddy’s Moon:

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About the author:

johnmulhallGeddy’s Moon is John Mulhall’s debut novel. In addition to being an award-winning video and event producer, John is also the author of a collection of poetry, several short stories, and plays. He began developing Geddy’s Moon more than twenty years ago at age nineteen, but he promises his next novel won’t take quite so long. He lives in Newbury Park, California, where he is the President/CEO of a creative agency.

Find John: * Website * Twitter * Goodreads * Facebook *

And now for the giveaway! I U. S. winner (sorry International folks, but I have to ship this one myself) will receive a paperback signed copy of Geddy’s Moon. Giveaway will run until September 20th. Simply fill out the form below to enter. You automatically get one entry, and you can get extras by tweeting, commenting, and following. Good luck!

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DESPER HOLLOW by Elizabeth Massie – Review

Desper Hollow 3D

Desper Hollow by Elizabeth Massie
Genre: Adult Horror
Publisher: Apex Publications
Release date: June 3 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher
Pages: 226

four stars

In a word: Deliverance with zombies! Good bloody fun combined with comedic timing, an authentic southern back-woods voice, and an unexpected hint of heart.

Ain’t nothing else to do in Desper Hollow. Ain’t nothing else to do with my life but play with the lives of other things. – Jenkie Mustard

I started reading Desper Hollow right before I left for Comic Con, and since it’s a fairly short book, I figured I’d finish it before I left, no problem. Then I got caught up with packing and preparing for the trip, and I didn’t finish it after all. I thought for sure I’d have plenty of time at the convention to read (standing in lines, etc), but that didn’t work out either! Needless to say, I didn’t finish it until after I returned. But honestly, this is the type of story you’ll want to devour in a couple of days at the most. It’s fast-paced, gruesome and full of stereotypical characters that you’ll like nonetheless, simply because they are stereotypes and therefore hysterically funny.

Elizabeth Massie is a veteran writer and a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner, and I read lots of her books when I first started collecting horror books twenty years ago. It was so nice to be asked to read a book of hers after so many years, and I wasn’t disappointed. Her writing skills and pacing are top-notch.

The story begins shortly after a tragedy: teenager Suze Mustard has inexplicably gone crazy and set fire to the tiny Appalachian Mountain town of Beaver Dam, killing dozens of people in the process. No one knows exactly what happened to make her do such a thing (or why she cut off her own hand afterward), but from this horrid beginning the answers begin to emerge. The undisputed matriarch of the mountain, Granny Mustard, has been experimenting with her homemade moonshine, trying to make a magical brew that will allow her to live forever. But Granny’s experimenting went wrong somehow, and now the dead are coming back to life.

When Granny’s granddaughter Jenkie decides to carry on her experiments after Granny dies in the fire, she contacts a television show in Los Angeles to come and see her “hollows,” thinking it will make her rich and famous. But things don’t go quite the way she plans. As strangers and family members alike converge on Desper Hollow, it’s every man for himself.

I had so much fun reading Desper Hollow! Massie’s descriptions of the zombies, or “hollows” as Jenkie calls them, are deliciously grisly, as their insatiable hunger drives them to tear into the bodies of animals and yes, humans. Even better is the way Massie switches the point of view from character to character so we can see into the minds of these creatures.

What really makes this book shine are the characters. Not only do we have a whole bunch of Mustards who are all scary in their own right (some of them are gun-toting backwoods mountain folk who have their own way of dealing with trespassers), but there’s an emotional storyline between a girl named Kathy Shaw and her father Hank. (And you’ll see just how Kathy and Hank fit into the Mustards’ story when you read the book!) There’s also some comedic relief with Jack and Sam, two guys from Los Angeles who have made the trek to see if Jenkie’s claims about zombies are true. Ah, poor Jack and Sam. Their trip to Desper Hollow is one they’ll never forget…

One of my favorite characters is a hollow named Armistead, a man who was traveling through town when he was unfortunately attacked by a hollow. Now he’s a hollow himself, and has been captured by Jenkie and locked up in a trailer, living on the tiny creatures of the forest that are the only things Jenkie gives him to eat. What I loved about Armistead is that he isn’t quite all the way gone. He still has a spark of humanity left in him, and he even has a conscience. He knows it’s wrong to want to kill people, even if he doesn’t know why. Massie gives Armistead a purpose, and his mission becomes clear near the end of the story when he connects with Hank in a very emotional way.

Massie has a way of using very few words to describe things perfectly:

The insurance man is thin, wearing a white shirt and skinny black tie that looks like a snake flattened by a tractor.

I laughed throughout Desper Hollow, even as I cringed at the descriptions of Jenkie Mustard, as seen through the eyes of big-city producer Jack. I loved when Jack and Sam ran into some Mustards and Jack told Sam, who grew up in the area, that he must get them out of trouble, because “They’re your people, Sam!” I also loved the banter between Jenkie and her brother Bink, who is helping her control the hollows despite the fact that he thinks the whole idea of making hollows is ridiculous.

There’s a mysterious book of magic that turns ice-cold when opened, a book that figures into Granny Mustard’s success with raising the dead. Wait until you read what happens to the book by the end of the story—brilliant!

If you love your zombie stories sprinkled with humor as well as gore, Desper Hollow is a must-read. Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Find Desper Hollow and Elizabeth Massie: * Author Website * Goodreads *

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BLACK MAGIC by Russell James – Review

Black Magic 3DBlack Magic by Russell James

Genre: Adult Horror

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Release date: May 7 2013

Source: e-book from Author

Pages: 280

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four stars

In a word: delightfully gruesome, with lots of small-town quirkiness, an evil magician you will hate, and heroic everyday characters you will love.

I was initially drawn to Black Magic by its cover, which I think is so well done, especially for a small publisher. The eerie glimpse into the magic store’s windows and the brewing storm overhead promise lots of horrific entertainment. And I’m happy to say the cover perfectly captures the mood of this story. Black Magic was a well-written and perfectly paced book that will appeal to fans of Stephen King. Russell James does not shy away from gory scenes, so if you have a weak stomach, this might not be the book for you. But like King, he makes his story just as much about the characters as the horror, and he throws in some humor to lighten the mood.

The story takes place in the small Florida town of Citrus Glade, a dying community on the edge of the Everglades whose Apex Sugar Mill shut its doors years ago. A newcomer named Lyle Miller has just decided to set up shop, and some of the residents of Citrus Glade think this might be just what the town needs to boost its economy. But Lyle is not who he seems. In fact, he is a 2000-year-old sorcerer who has chosen the town as the site of his next “Grand Adventure,” and because he is an evil sorcerer, that adventure involves destroying the town of Citrus Glade and everyone in it.

But in order to fuel his magic, Lyle needs the help of the residents of Citrus Glade to add juice to his powers. He selects those whose “whapna,” or essence, leans towards the dark side, including four boys who call themselves “The Outsiders,” a nasty old man named Shane who terrorizes the local retirement home, and a loser named Vicente whose used car business is a front for a drug smuggling operation. With a few dazzling tricks to entice the boys and a bit of black magic to rope in Vicente and Shane, Lyle is set to topple what remains of this pitiful town.

But a handful of heroes catch on to Lyle’s tricks and they will do anything to stop him. Andy Patterson, who is the last employee of the Department of Public Works, his mother Dolly who is slowly losing her battle with Alzheimer’s, and a young biologist named Autumn who has come to Citrus Glade to study the Everglades are a few of the characters who are ready to rid the town of Lyle and his black magic for good.

James’ real talent is getting to the heart of small town life: its disappointments, economic failings and the despair that comes with families on the brink of collapse due to climate change and other factors. The Arroyo family owns and works an orange grove, but Felix Arroyo’s orange trees haven’t been doing very well. Until Lyle comes to town, though. His powers infuse Felix’s orange trees with enough magic to produce beautiful fruit overnight, giving the family a bit of hope, at least until things start going horribly wrong.

The author does a great job of portraying small town characters, and two of my favorites were Andy and his elderly mother Dolly. Andy is the good son who loves his mother and weathers her many memory lapses, as painful as they are. And James has given Andy an intriguing back-story: he’s an Army vet who had a life-changing experience in Afghanistan, an experience that colors his daily life in Citrus Grove. Dolly’s character takes a wonderful turn when the side effects of Lyle’s magic start to not only improve her memory, but her mobility as well. Before long, Dolly’s mind is as sharp as a tack, and along with her friend Walking Bear, a wonderful character who fancies himself a Native American and has an armadillo as a spirit guide, she sets out to stop Lyle’s magic before it can destroy the town.

Even the peripheral characters are well drawn, like Juliana, Vicente’s drug addicted girlfriend who can’t seem to tear herself away from the abusive Vicente, or his piles of cocaine, for that matter. A couple of characters border on the cliché, like the Reverend Rusty Wright who immediately knows that Lyle is “the work of Satan” and sets out to find proof of his evil deeds. But for the most part I enjoyed all of James’ portrayals of ordinary folk who are just trying to survive in a dying town.

The author uses the magician’s bag of tricks to his advantage, taking ordinary props like the magician’s hat and wand and imbuing them with wicked and evil magic. He also infuses wry humor into the story with his tricks. Paco (one of the Outsiders) is given a wand that makes things disappear, and the first thing he wants to get rid of is his Ritalin (he has ADHD)! And Barry, another of the four boys, gets a special top hat from Lyle, a hat that can call forth any small animal. It’s a dream come true for a boy whose parents don’t allow pets in the house, until the magic turns nasty and something monstrous emerges. But watch out: a couple of standard magician’s tricks are given a diabolical treatment, and one of the most creatively horrific scenes I’ve ever read involves poor Reverend Rusty when he tries to break into the Magic Shop.

Aside from a couple of awkward sentences that could have used a bit more editing, the writing is polished and the pace will keep you turning pages. James wraps things up with a bang but includes some poignant moments that give this story emotional depth. For horror aficionados, Black Magic is a treat, not a trick, and is highly recommended.

Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy. You can purchase Black Magic here and visit the author’s website here.

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Interview + Giveaway – PLOW THE BONES Author Douglas F. Warrick

Author Interview

I’m thrilled to welcome Douglas F. Warrick to the blog today, author of Plow the Bones, which I recently reviewed here. This amazing collection of stories is the first book in the Apex Voices series, which highlights up-and-coming writers of genre fiction.

Plow the Bones

Books, Bones & Buffy: First off, welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy! I appreciate you taking time to answer some questions for my readers. Plow the Bones is one of the most unique story collections I’ve read in some time, and believe me, I’ve read some very unique collections this year. At the risk of asking a very over-asked question, where do your ideas come from? (And I really do want to know!)

Douglas F. Warrick: Ha! Tough question. I don’t really think any person whose trade is in creative fabrications knows exactly where their ideas come from. Maybe we should. Maybe if we were more vigilant and perceptive, we would. In my case, I’m usually working through some frustration or phobia. But that really addresses where my themes come from, not so much my ideas. I guess if I’m being honest, my ideas are probably some combination of the stimuli that I absorb and the obsessions that I nurture. I wish I could offer a more insightful answer!

BB&B: Hey, that answer works for me:) Let’s say someone comes up to you and asks you to describe Plow the Bones. What do you tell them?

DFW: The stories in Plow the Bones don’t stay put in a single genre. Sometimes they wear horror masks or fantasy masks or science fiction masks. They dress up like courtiers, or they pull on their patched-up punk-rock leather jackets, or they stand around naked and stare at themselves in the mirror. They are sad and strange and scared and hopeful. If you like Harlan Ellison, Haruki Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges, Jeff VanderMeer, Catherynne Valente, Alissa Nutting, and writers like that, you like some of the same writers as me. That doesn’t necessarily mean that my writing is anything like theirs, but you can at least open the book knowing that we have something in common.

BB&B: I love Ellison and VanderMeer, I can totally see the comparisons. Your stories are full of images that don’t always fit together in the imagination. Did you make a deliberate choice to use imagery this way in order to make the reader feel uncomfortable?

DFW: The images toward which I gravitate are those that appeal to me. I like combinations of images that make me feel like real life has adopted the logic of dreams. In my experience, there’s a weird flavor of discomfort that overlaps with the sublime. There are two real-life examples that come to mind. The first: in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, there’s an annual Halloween block party. Bands play, the bars hold costume contests, people wander the streets dressed as dead things and video game avatars and superheroes and fairy tales. That collision of spookiness and sublime abandon, the juxtaposition of all these disparate characters engaged in everyday celebration, it creates a scene that I find both uncomfortable and unspeakably exciting. The second example is Bangkok, Thailand. Walking around Bangkok at night is extremely strange. The tourists cluster inside of Starbuck’s while fifty feet away Buddhists pilot a giant dragon puppet through a neon red-light district. People ride around in tuk-tuks (essentially taxis that look like motorcycles with canopies and couches bolted to the back) past street vendors with waxed mustaches selling mints labeled as Viagra. There’s a mean streak to Bangkok, a nasty misogyny, a huge disparity between rich and poor, but there’s also a lot of joy. That disparity bothers me and compels me. I try to create that same feeling in my stories. Not so much for the reader, who I hope exists, but for my own self-exploration.

BB&B: I know you must have a slew of influences, both literary and artistic. Your stories are so visual, and disturbingly visual at that. Which artists and writers speak to you the most?

DFW: I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve. I’m glad to hear you find the stories to be visual, that’s a huge compliment. Visual art informs a lot of my stuff. I’m a big fan of the Surrealists, Magritte in particular. He’s the best. The films of Lynch and Jodorowski, trashy stuff like Russ Meyer’s filmography, a bunch of Bunuel’s movies. I’m influenced by bunches and bunches of fiction writers. Thomas Ligotti, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Conner, Stewart O’Nan, tons and tons more. These days, I find myself leaning increasingly on music for inspiration. I’m particularly fond of old punk rock acts (Richard Hell, The Buzzcocks, Violent Femmes), lo-fi blues (in particular, I’ve been really digging Black Ace and Son House lately), and spooky ambient music.

BB&B: I like that your influences are so varied. Several recurring themes stood out as I was reading your stories, including inanimate objects that come to life, and your use of very unsettling, non-traditional monsters (like human body parts that are fused together in strange ways). Why do you think you tend to use these images over and over again?

DFW: I was a film major before I started writing. In film school, they talk a lot about auteur theory. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t mean to self-identify as an auteur. I don’t think I am one. But one of the qualities that defines an auteur is a recognizable recursion of themes and images. Fellini has his fat women, his dwarves, his carnivals. Truffaut has his young men in love. Lynch has his awkward conversations, his small-town secrets, his enigmatic nightmares. The Cohen brothers have their hapless put-upon protagonists and their sinister and mysterious strangers. I think most creatives return to something over and over again. With me, maybe it’s inanimate objects or non-traditional monsters. It’s funny, because I believe you when you say that I write about those things over and over, but I don’t do so intentionally and would have a hard time pulling out examples of my own recurring themes.

BB&B: You seem to have a handle on the short story form, but have you written any novels, or are you planning to?

DFW: You don’t even want to know how many novels I’ve started and then abandoned. It’s a self-doubt thing. I’m working on a few things now, and I’m hoping that by mentioning them in interviews like this one, I’ll feel obligated to finish them. One is a surreal crime novel called We Three Slayers of Beasts. The other is a novel about South Korea called The Memento Mori Year. I hope you’ll see one or both of those soonish.

 BB&B: If you had to choose a single image or icon that represents you, what would it be?

DFW: That’s so tough. Only one? I feel kinda compelled to be a jerk and ignore the premise of your question entirely by choosing, like, five images. See, this is why I couldn’t commit to getting only one tattoo. I’m gonna go with… a triceratops ballroom dancing with an octopus. Except that in my head, that looks a lot less silly than it sounds.

BB&B: Wow, I love that one! Just for fun, tell us three things about Douglas Warrick that can’t be found on your website.

DFW: This could be dangerous for me… #1 – In the past year, I’ve become addicted to the gym. Can’t stop going. Love it. #2 – I’m a huge fan of professional wrestling. I watch it religiously. I attend shows put on by independent promotions. I actually own a Mick Foley t-shirt. #3 – “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia is one of my absolute favorite songs ever. If it comes on the radio, I sing it at the top of my lungs. It never comes out of rotation on my iPod. The rest of my taste in music is far less suspect, I promise.

This was a blast…thank you so much, Doug!

Doug WarrickAbout the author:

Douglas F. Warrick is a writer, a musician, and a world-traveler. His first published short story appeared in Apex Digest back in 2006. Since then, Douglas’s work has been published in a variety of periodicals, websites, podcasts, and anthologies, and has grown progressively stranger. Douglas originally hails from Dayton, Ohio, but his travels have taken him all over Asia. Douglas has screamed Buzzcocks’ lyrics with Korean punk rockers in the neon alleys of Seoul, marveled at the oddness of Beijing’s masked opera singers and illusionists, piloted a bicycle through Kyoto on the way to the Golden Temple, broken up a fight between an Australian tourist and a Thai street vendor in Bangkok, and learned that the world is much weirder more wonderful than anything he could fabricate.

Find Doug and Plow the Bones here:

Goodreads * Amazon * Barnes &  Noble * Author Website * Twitter

And now you can win your own paperback copy of Plow the Bones. If you are an aficionado of high-quality quirky genre-bending writing and you love to be challenged when you read, then this giveaway is for you. Simply enter the form below! Giveaway is open to US residents only, and ends on May 31 2013.

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PLOW THE BONES by Douglas F. Warrick – Review

Plow the Bones 3D

Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick

Genre: Adult Speculative/Horror Short Stories

Publisher: Apex Book Company

Release date: May 3 2013

Source: e-ARC from publisher

Pages: 228

four and a half

In a word:  hallucinatory, disturbing & unsettling stories, carefully crafted with glimmers of humanity.

They have crafted sharp teeth for themselves from the tiny crystal bones of their dead and mounted them in their mouths. Was it painful? You’re goddamn right it was! Setting crystal spines into their soft tiny moth-gums, drawing fountains of their own blood, God, how they screamed and cried.

I’ve read some unusual short story collections this year (Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Revenge, and The Miniature Wife), but Plow the Bones is almost in a category by itself. I’ll admit I had to read this book in small doses.  Each story by itself triggered goose bumps and an odd feeling of unease, the sort of unease that’s hard to explain. And so I drank this collection in small sips, letting each story settle in my stomach before going back for more. Like a bitter taste that nonetheless grows on you, the stories in this collection as a whole make up an impressive and award-worthy assemblage of monsters, damaged people, hidden rooms, and inanimate objects come to life. Here are some of my favorites:

Her Father’s Collection

An unusual ghost story about a man afraid of losing his beloved daughter, and so he devises a way to keep her with him forever, even after death. I found this story to be very sad but also a bit menacing.

The Itaewon Eschatology Show

Another story with an overall mood of sadness, this is also a good example of the unwieldy titles that Warrick seems to be fond of. I got a Clive Barker vibe from this story, about two men who perform as night clowns in Korea. The narrator, who is also involved with a prostitute, seems to be stuck between two different lives. I looked for a deeper meaning in this story but came up empty-handed. It made me wonder if I missed something, or if the author simply intended the bizarre quality of the story to be simply that: random events brought together for a short time on a piece of paper.

Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy

One of my favorites, this is the story of a man with Alzheimer’s that is desperately searching for a lost memory of his wedding day. With the help of a ghostly visitor, he gets his memory back, but at a cost. A very affecting and poignant story about life, death, and memory.

Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl

The title says it all: it’s the story of a girl who is certain her head is about to catch on fire, and so she crafts a hot air balloon envelope and attaches it to her shoulders, so she’ll be ready when it happens. When the narrator falls in love with her, he devises a way to reunite with her after she inevitably floats away.

And she kissed me. Our tongues touched, and I tasted smoke. Her mouth was hot like a stone beneath the sun and she tasted red and brown and old.

A strange but lovely story that gave me chills.

Stickhead (or…In the Dark, in the Wet, We are Collected)

Another head-scratch-inducing title, this story is pure horror. Not only does it contain a monster, like so many of Warrick’s stories, but it becomes terrifying because of the choices the human characters make.

I Inhale the City, The City Exhales Me

A manga artist’s drawings come to life as she draws, or are the drawings controlling her? It’s sometimes hard to tell in this story about the symbiotic relationship between an artist and her creations, but I quite enjoyed the mood and flavor of this odd tale.

Across the Dead Station Desert, Television Girl

It’s dirty in the between-world, a place made of screams, and she is always falling.

The longest story of the bunch, this was my favorite and probably the one with the most traditional narrative style. A company in a futuristic society has created the ultimate sex toy, Television Girl, a completely responsive Artificial Intelligence computer program that you can access through your TV screen. But Television Girl has found a between-world, a place that is neither her holding pen when she isn’t being used (the Shelter) or the bedroom where she is called upon to have sex. In the Dead Station Desert she discovers that she may be able to change her fate. I loved the hopefulness of this tale, and I adored Television Girl. It was a perfect ending to this unique and peculiar collection.

Some of the stories just didn’t work for me, but overall I was very impressed with the Warrick’s mind-bending vision and his skillfully written prose. If you are drawn to stories that explore the darker parts of human existence, Plow the Bones should not be missed. This first book in the Apex Voices series, created to shine a light on little-known writers of high quality genre fiction, is a promising start to the series, and I look forward to reading more.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quotes were taken from an uncorrected review copy and may differ from the finished version.

Purchase Plow the Bones * Add to Goodreads

Come back soon for my interview with Doug and a giveaway of Plow the Bones!

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DEAD LIGHT by Mike Pace – Review

Dead Light 3DDead Light by Mike Pace

Genre: Adult Horror

Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing

Release date: April 4 2013

Source: e-book from publisher

Pages: 387

four stars

In a word: finely paced plotting, graphically descriptive, engaging characters and a terrifying and deadly light…

Why is it that stories rooted in Biblical legend can scare the bejesus out of me, but I can read books about vampires and werewolves all day long with nary a goose bump? There’s something unsettling about the devil, probably because of his religious affiliations. Debut novelist Mike Pace cuts to the heart of this fear with this top-notch horror story about what happens when the devil decides to visit a small town.

Here’s a quick run-down on the plot: In the small (and very conservative) town of Cumberton, Maryland, Reverend Jimmy Starr has convinced the town officials to relocate a 350-year-old cemetery so that he can build a dormitory for his fundamentalist Christian college, Starr College. Unfortunately, an old and very dangerous box is unearthed during the construction, and once it is opened, bad things start happening to the townspeople of Cumberton. And I do mean bad.

After a seemingly stable co-ed named Jill inexplicably drowns herself in Chesapeake Bay, Sheriff Estin Booker and visiting homicide detective Anna Tucci begin to investigate Jill’s death. But Jill is just the beginning. Soon people begin dropping like flies, and all the deaths appear to be suicides. But to Estin and Tucci, the clues add up to something else entirely. With the help of an English Lit professor named Harvey, O’Hara the old town eccentric, and even Reverend Starr himself, they begin to piece together a frightening picture of what’s really happening. Can Estin and Tucci fight the devil, and win? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

I got so many Stephen King vibes while reading Dead Light, from the small town setting to the eccentric and quirky characters to the stomach-churning visceral horror. Pace doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to describing each gruesome death, and what makes it all the more horrific is that the deaths themselves aren’t supernatural in nature at all. The author has a talent for building a sense of dread. Before each person dies, they all experience the same things: the smell of burnt cookies, a stinging scratch on the back of their neck, and a pulsing light, followed by a frightening vision of someone from their past. So when Tony suddenly smells burnt cookies, you know what’s coming.

I loved all the characters, but I have to say my favorite was Tucci, the brash and tough-speaking detective from Baltimore, who unwittingly ends up helping with the investigation. Estin Booker can’t stand her at first, as she criticizes and makes fun of the small-town characters of Cumberton. But she proves to be a smart cop, and as they get nearer to the truth about why so many people are committing suicide, she and Estin get closer as well. Tucci’s got her own tragic past, mostly told through flashbacks, and it makes her more likeable. I was pleased to see a female character that doesn’t fit the usual norms in fiction.

The author alternates his present-day story with flashback chapters that take place in the 1660s and partially explain the mystery behind the wooden box and how it came to be buried in the cemetery. I thought he did a great job with these chapters, and even though I felt they were a bit too spread out, they were important to the reader’s understanding of Lucifer’s Light, the blinding flash of light that has escaped from the box. He also uses flashbacks with some of the key characters to explain their feelings of guilt that lead them to commit suicide.

A couple of things didn’t quite work for me, like the mysterious ice cream cones that keep appearing at the crime scenes, a reference to Tucci’s past that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up feeling forced; and a couple of misleads about the case suggesting mass drug use and subliminal messages that were just confusing. But these are small things in an otherwise tightly crafted story.

Pace makes a tongue-in-cheek moral statement about sex and death, since several of the characters meet their demise after having forbidden (to the fundamentalist church) sex. He also gives Tucci and Estin a firm disbelief in the supernatural, so it takes them a while before they start to believe that the deaths are connected to the light that’s escaped from the box. The final showdown between good and evil takes up the last quarter of the book, but by that time you’ll be turning the pages as quickly as possible to find out what happens.

Dead Light is a novel of Biblical proportions, literally! If it’s the dark you’re afraid of, you ain’t seen nothing’ yet. As the Dead Light’s victims say right before they die, “Beware the Light.”

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Coming up next, don’t miss my interview with Mike and your chance to win an e-book of Dead Light!

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