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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 278 Pages

Release Date: March 17, 2016

Review copy provided by publisher 

Longtime readers of The Horror Bookshelf know that I am a huge fan of Grey Matter Press and the stellar anthologies they have released over the years. So when I heard that they were branching out into novels and other formats, I was ecstatic! The first novel to be released under the Grey Matter Press banner is John C. Foster’s Mister White, a continuation of his short story that was featured in Dark Visions – Volume 2. When I came across the short story version of Mister White, I was hooked. I am pleased to write that the novel version amplifies the power of the original short story and adds even more mystery to the legend of Mister White.

Foster’s story opens with the line “Who is Mister White?” which is the last thing Abel hears on a static-filled phone conversation that leaves him shaken. Later that evening, Abel is on his way to a clandestine meeting in a graveyard—seriously, how creepy is that?!—when he hears the same question over and over again: “Abel? Sin sie das?” It sets his hair on edge and when he arrives at the meeting place, what he sees sets in motion a series of events that will fracture his sanity and place everyone around him in danger.

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Lewis is watching a video of his fellow operative Abel torturing himself in order to survive a bizarre and hellish prison. Abel is forced to inflict this punishment on himself by an entity known only as “The Voice”. The commands are very bizarre and this is just one of the many scenes that stood out while reading Mister White. The psychological torture employed here is bizarre and frightening because you don’t know what to expect next. Not only does this scene unnerve readers, it also causes Lewis extreme paranoia while he is holed up in his study miles away, checking his security footage. As he watches this unfold, he gets a call from Bierce, the leader of all the agents and tells him about the disturbing footage. Once he mentions there was a name – Mister White – Bierce tells him he is beyond sanction and to get out of there right now. Lewis realizes he has made a grave error and initiates a protocol to help ensure his family’s safety as he is now left all alone with no resources to make it back to his family to protect them from the hell that is unleashed.

The truth is, I really struggled with the review for this novel, which is unlike anything I have ever read. How many times can you say something is brilliant? Because make no mistake about it, that’s what Mister White is. The creation of Mister White the character is the sort of thing I would imagine a horror writer would kill for – the chance to create an iconic monster. What makes Mister White so terrifying is the fact that we don’t really know for certain exactly who or what he is. He is mentioned in hushed tones and never by name due to his reputation. What readers will find out much like I did when I read it, is speaking his name is a very bad idea and if you ever cross his path, you’ll regret it. He is a legendary figure, someone who strikes fear into the hearts of operatives who deal with deadly situations on a daily basis in a career that calls for nerves of steel.

Not only does Foster do an excellent job breathing life into one of the scariest supernatural forces I have ever encountered, he builds an incredibly fascinating mythology and history around Mister White. There are a few scenes that seem to indicate one of the characters in this novel have at least some knowledge of Mister White’s origins. I don’t want to get too much into the details of that as it is part of the fun of the novel, but it leaves ample room for more stories. I am the type of reader who is often torn between wanting to know every detail about a book and having some mystery left behind, and Foster does a great job of leaving just enough mystery to keep readers intrigued. My imagination ran wild thinking about where Mister White came from, what his goals are, how he got mixed up in the world of espionage and a variety of other questions that popped up while reading. Mister White does a great job blending the occult with tinges of bizarre real-life programs in the intelligence world. One of the few things that is known about Mister White, is that he feeds off the fear of those he chooses to hunt down. Not only does it sustain him, but he derives enjoyment from it and will often toy with his victims. He is able to listen for his name and travel to anyone who mentions his name to attack them. Besides the mysteriousness of his origins, what makes Mister White such a great character is his unpredictability. With a lot of horror novels, you know what to expect whether it is a sadistic killer on the loose, a monster, or some other evil unleashed on the world. With Mister White, his motivations are a mystery. Foster does a masterful job building tension in this novel and when Mister White finally makes his grand entrance it is incredible.

Foster’s characterization is excellent and this cast of flawed characters leap off the page. Each character has a complex history and it’s clear early in the story that this isn’t your stereotypical squeaky clean family, they have secrets from each other. When we first meet Lewis, he is an operative who has been out of the game for quite some time. A family man who went from doing field work to more schmoozing with delegates and other members of the Russian elite that are of interest to the CIA. However, after years of not being in the field, his old training springs to the forefront of his mind and his only goal is survival once he realizes he is in danger. The tactics and logistics are fresh in his mind, but it takes a little while for his body to get used to the exhaustion of being on the run. His family is vaguely aware of his career, but they do not know the full extent of his past. His wife Cat has an affair to help push away the loneliness of constantly being separated from her husband and the distance and career choices that makes him appear to be preoccupied. There is a great section that talks about Cat’s life and how she got to where she was. Lewis is once again overseas without her and their only child, Hedde, is in high school. Her relationship with Hedde is now guarded when it used to be open. The loneliness she feels drives her to consult from home instead of going into the office and she has even taken up day drinking to help numb the pain.

Hedde is an interesting character and one of my favorites. She is a bit of an outcast and described by classmates as being addicted to drugs or “Most Likely To Become A Serial Killer”. She wears outdated clothes and while classmates tease her by calling her “Wednesday Addams” and “Lizzie Borden”, that doesn’t keep them from asking her to use witchcraft to solve their problems. Without giving too much away about Hedde, there are hints throughout the novel that she is far from your average teenager. I give Hedde credit, she is a hell of a lot braver than I would be if I were facing a supernatural entity hellbent on destroying my family. She does show fear, but she pushes through that in an effort to combat the sinister Mister White. Bierce is a fascinating character as well and I honestly thought for a while that he could be Mister White based on his description. He is completely hairless and has such a pale complexion that he seems white.  As you read Mister White, readers will learn that Bierce has a very interesting connection to Mister White and his shadowy involvement with the government.

There is a sense of isolation that not only amplifies the more terrifying scenes of this novel, but informs the characters personalities as well. It seems like each member of the family has adapted the sort of intelligence credo of distancing yourself from others and severing emotional ties to protect themselves from potential traumas. It is interesting to see a group of people who deal with the very real threat of danger on a daily basis try to use their training and protocols against a force that simply cannot be stopped. Lewis instituted a protocol list for his family years ago, which shows he was prepared for something like this to happen as soon as he started a family with Cat. They are a fractured family coming apart at the seams, but this event forces them to try to band together even though they are separated from each other with multiple continents between them.

Foster manages to craft a dark atmosphere that highlights the suspense and dread that lurks on every page. There is no cheap jump scares here, each scene is well thought out and deliberate. One of my favorite scenes was  the discovery of a bizarre coffin connected to Mister White and a creepy candlestick phone. The scene with these objects is absolutely brilliant. It takes a lot to truly unnerve me and something about these scenes, though devoid of any supernatural presence or violence, really rattled me. Foster manages to catch that darkness and distill it into potent blasts of fear that make for a truly frightening read.

Foster uses razor-sharp prose to draw readers in and can amaze with even a single line, like this one that describes an accident early in the novel “A two-by-four had crashed through the windshield like a spear, impaling the driver through his mouth and penetrating out the back of his skull, exploding like a brain, blood and bone grenade, until the wood lodged itself in the rear window”. While Mister White isn’t overly gory, there are a few blood-soaked scenes that he uses sparingly and effectively with sentences similar to this one.

It’s really hard to talk about Mister White without spoiling the novel and its many twists and turns that frankly are what make this such a standout novel. Foster weaves in so many bizarre and frightening moments that it’s jarring to the senses, but in the best possible way. Mister White is a truly exceptional novel that is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre and honestly, one of the best novels I have read this year. I honestly think Mister White is worth of being classified as a modern classic and I am sure this novel will have a lasting legacy. It blurs the lines between numerous genres and is a novel that I could honestly see myself re-reading multiple times. If you are a fan of any type of dark fiction, do yourself a favor and snag a copy of this immediately. The last 40 or so pages rocket by and reach a stunning conclusion unlike anything I have ever read. I loved this novel and I can’t wait to read what Foster has in store for us all next!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

John C. Foster Official Website 

Grey Matter Press Official Website

Purchase Mister White: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Grey Matter Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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BOOK INFO

Length: 290 Pages

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Release Date: August 23, 2016

Review copy provided as part of the I Can Taste the Blood Blog Tour

I vaguely remember when I first heard about this project. John F.D. Taff announced he was working on a shared title anthology, and even with minimal details, it rocketed to the top of my most anticipated books list. I have been a huge fan of Taff’s for years now, and I knew that if he was assembling the authors for this anthology, it was guaranteed to be good. Taff got his inspiration for the story after stumbling across the phrase “I Can Taste the Blood” scrawled at eye level in a dive bar bathroom. Taff even includes a picture of the original graffiti that inspired this collection, a nice touch that shows readers the beginnings of the project. That little detail alone made this an intriguing read for me. How would five authors with very distinct styles approach a similar title? The result is a unique and mind-bending novella collection that will appeal to dark fiction fanatics of all types.

Vision I – Josh Malerman

The lead off story – which are referred to as “Visions” – comes from acclaimed author Josh Malerman, the author of Bird Box. I remember reading that novel and being blown away by the concept of eliminating one of the key five senses. Ever since reading Bird Box, I have been a huge fan and look forward to checking out anything Malerman writes. Vision I opens with an introduction to Madmannah and his family. They were used to living in poverty, nomadic in nature and traveling the brutal heat of the dusty desert until their fortunes changed rapidly from a quick thinking lie on Madmannah’s part. They were used to meeting all sorts of outcasts on their travels. Madmannah and his family are finally able to enjoy the safety they always craved and sought after, but they still look back and remember how they used to do whatever it took to get by. Madmannah is sitting around the table with his family, celebrating his good fortunes when a mysterious traveler named Rab shows up, pounding on the door asking for refuge from a depraved man/demon he has met along the road and overcome with fear and panic.

They are unsure of whether or not to let this man, but their sense of goodwill as they were vagabonds and travelers once and a curiosity convince them to let the man in. Rab proceeds to tell them a story of the mysterious and dangerous  man he met out on the desert. As Rab tells them his story, it sets them on edge and makes them question their safety and deeply unsettles them. Though they are on edge, they urge him to press on and are captivated by his story.

This story from Malerman crackles with energy and the whole time you’re wondering if Rab’s story is for real. There are plenty of moments when the secret start swirling and the reader is held captive by the narrative much like the other characters in the story. At every moment where you think you have the story figured out, you are thrown a curveball and it helps keep your fear elevated. There are some truly dark scenes in this story that I didn’t expect and they are deeply unsettling, some particularly cringe worthy.The art of storytelling drives this novella and is another stellar offering from Malerman. I don’t want to give too much about this one away, but I love that there are key details littered throughout this story that once you reach the end, finally click into place.

Vision II – J. Daniel Stone

Stone’s story opens with a man named Bok waking from a nightmare. His nightmares are so debilitating that he often wakes up tasting blood, screaming in his sleep so forcefully it tears up his throat. Bok gets a call from a mysterious man with a German accent. All he wants to do is to say no to him, but with jobs hard to come by and the fact that the German man has paid him well before, Bok takes the call. Bok lives in an apartment that is a mess as Bok misses his boyfriend who is gone and never coming back. He catches a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror and is shocked by its skeletal appearance.

Bok’s boyfriend Jared is a film buff with a wide variety of interests from Italian splatter giallo and science fiction to the most experimental films. It is through Jared and his love of film that Bok is introduced to the mysterious Laurenz, a purveyor of the darkest and most experimental films on the market. Bok believes this man drove Jared insane. They get tangled up in his web of influence and the darkness calls out to them both as they attempt to capture the magic they so desperately crave. Laurenz is mysterious and it is obvious that he holds his own dark and warped secrets. The two characters descend into madness as they are drawn deeper into Laurenz’s dark world.

J Daniel Stone has a lush, evocative writing style that I absolutely love and the way he captures the dark, gritty aspects of this novella will definitely captivate readers. I loved the way he portrayed the relationship between Bok and Jared. They have a passionate relationship and Stone weaves readers through that passion while also showing how they were swallowed up by the darkness of addiction and the desire to be a part of something unique and horrific. Laurenz Althaus is also a very interesting character. The less I say about him the better, only that I found it interesting that he isn’t physically imposing in the least bit, but his charisma looms over the characters and his eye for people’s inner darkness and secrets make him a formidable force.

Stone also does an excellent job in transporting readers into his settings. I have never been to New York City, but reading this novella definitely helped me envision what it must be like. I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoy Stone’s writing. Just take a look at this line: “This part of town was interesting because no matter the weather or time of day, it was always balmy and dark with smog. Great plumes of steam shot up from the sewers, and exhaust spit out of the countless delivery trucks. Nobody wanted to live here, no gentrification robots or big business tycoons. Not yet anyway.”

There is a scene where Bok first starts to discover the sort of films that Laurenz is into and that is where the story first starts to descend into some truly dark and violent territory. I don’t want to get too much into what they see there, but it is pretty wicked and not for the faint of heart. Stone isn’t afraid to shine a light on the violence and depravity of this story. and the final scenes of this story are definitely extreme horror. This is one of my favorite pieces of Stone’s work.

Vision III – Joe Schwartz

Two small-time criminals, Joe and Sam, are out a stake out waiting for a woman who has somehow crossed their boss, The Caretaker. She is their latest mark in a slew of jobs that have found them navigating the seedy underbelly of the city they live in. Sam and Joe seem to work well enough together, but it seems more out of necessity than anything else. Joe is a massive imposing figure with a penchant for letting little slights blow up into a personal affront. This garners him a violent reputation as he supposedly killed a guy who ignored his request for help loading boxes. He’s crude and doesn’t care if he offends anyone because the way he sees it, no one could possibly have the balls to stand up to him. Rumor or not, Sam says that the job they do is not for the weak or the brave, but the dregs of society who have nothing to lose. Joe also has a passion for the job, lighting up with glee when it was time to grab their target whereas Sam just views it as a job and safer than his old job transporting drugs across state lines.

Readers are shown flashbacks of Sam’s life of crime, living on the fringes, and dumpy motels that drove him into a career as a criminal. All of those moments throughout Sam’s life led him to this moment, a job that will forever alter the course of his life.

What really makes this story standout to me is all the little details Schwartz utilizes in this tale about the criminal life. Schwartz mentions cars with fictitious registrations where anything could be in the trunk from drugs to a body. Even when he talks about the blind luck involved and how guys could do runs for years without getting busted and others get busted on their first delivery. They are relatively small details, but stitched together throughout the story, they add authenticity to Sam’s story.

Schwartz’s characterization of both Joe and Sam is top-notch. Sam actually seems to have a good heart, all things considered. He is only 5’9 but has a mean streak that keeps him safe. He also isn’t ashamed to admit that he takes more beatings than he gives. He has limits to what he will do and views the pain he inflicts as being earned. Pain inflicted on grown men who should have known better and now serve as an example for the rest of the degenerates that operate in his world. Joe seems to enjoy his work a little too much and that friction with Sam leads to some great moments. The one thing they both have in common though is their reputations for getting things done. Undesirable things that only people with warped morals or desperation would dare dream of carrying out.

This was my first exposure to Schwartz’s work and I am kicking myself for not finding out about him sooner. This is awesome stuff! Schwartz’s tale stands out as being the one that doesn’t really contain any elements of the weird or supernatural. Instead, it is a straight-up crime story that hits like a freight train. I was drawn into this story from the opening scene. Brilliant characterization and larger-than-life characters that leap off the page, tons of action, there isn’t a single lull in this story. I don’t know how I have missed hearing about his work until now, but these stories are incredible and I need to go out and grab all of his books and give them a read!

Vision IV – Erik T. Johnson

The story introduces readers to a man named Canny, who is prone to long-recurring nightmares. Every night he meets with a hooded figure and Johnson takes us into the surreal mindscape of Canny’s mind.

Canny lives at home and has for his entire life. His mother is the only person he talks to, but their interactions with each other get less and less as the years drag on.  She threatens to kick him out on the street if he even makes one friend. He doesn’t mind though as he never really cared for people. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants, but must remain in isolation. She has a tendency to wear a black bathrobe, which is similar to the hooded figure in his dreams. She also wears a miner’s helmet that is equipped with a blinding lamp to prevent Canny from looking at her directly in the face. Why is she hiding her face? What secrets lie there? As you read, you will find out. If that isn’t weird enough, Canny doesn’t know his family history, birthday or who his father was. It’s like he has no personal history at all.  After introducing readers to Canny, Johnson takes readers on a journey through a world that is filled with bizarre creatures responsible for delirium-inducing nightmares.

My favorite part of Johnson’s novella was his creation of the town, Episode Lake. It is a dark, seedy town full of dangerous and deranged people. There are rumors of people like Mister Sunday, The Man Who Doesn’t Knock. He is a supposed escaped mental patient living in an abandoned institution built beneath a rubber factory. He creeps out to steal children from their homes. Then there is the Whore-Bug Witch who haunts nondescript locations like discount stores or nail salons or a duo who give a whole new meaning to the saying never take candy from a stranger. Each of these creatures/people have  their own rhymes, that I could only imagine sounding like the unsettling song from the Freddy movies (you know the one).

I will be honest right off the bat and say that I am only about 30% sure I understand what was going on in Erik T. Johnson’s tale (why 30%? I don’t know it seemed like a good number). That being said, I appreciated this mind melting novella which featured some really bizarre monsters. Vision IV seems to be a mashup of a variety of styles and it is easily the most divisive story in the collection. If you prefer more linear types of storytelling, this one may not be your cup of tea. However, if you are open to experimental writing styles, you will find a lot to appreciate in Johnson’s story.

Vision V – John F.D. Taff

Taff’s story opens with a cold open, a person scrunched up inside of a water tower. The man is someone who has worked with his hands his whole life and knows every mark on them and his fingerprints. Right off the bat, John hooks you with an opening that gives you just enough details to be drawn in and build a sense of dread, especially when you hear the sounds Click-clack. Trust me, you will know why that noise sends shivers down my spine as soon as you read this story!

We are introduced a man named Merle, a 50-year-old man who lives in the dying small town of Norton. His life is falling apart around him, starting with the failure of his marriage. They were a typical married couple and there was no violence or anything else, they simply drifted apart after seven years. Now, Merle doesn’t have much going on in his life aside from drinking with his childhood buddy James Derringer aka “Gun” at the Rest- Ezee. It is one night over a few beers that Merle begins to get an inkling that something isn’t quite right in Norton. He has a strange wound on his arm that he can’t recall how it got there and isn’t it strange how many blood drives have been popping up all over town? Later that night, Merle feels a bit off and sees something that not only scares him, but sets in motion a chain of events that alters his life and makes him question his own sanity. All small towns have their own secrets!

I absolutely loved Taff’s offering in I Can Taste the Blood. His novella is full of realistic characters and captures small-town Americana perfectly.  Taff excels at crafting stories that truly immerse readers in the world he has created. I can’t talk to much about the plot of this one without spoiling it, but even after Taff unleashes some truly crazy stuff, you are still able to suspend your disbelief. It still feels like you know these characters and that you know Norton like the back of your hand, just like Merle does. Taff’s utilization of little details like that breath life into the story and that is what has always drawn me to his work since I first discovered The Bell Witch. His description of the bar Rest – Ezee is top-notch too. From the Christmas lights behind the bar to the cigarette smoke hanging in the air, I would swear Taff was writing about my neighborhood bar. While Vision V is a terrifying and unsettling story, there is still humor at times. There is a particular line about the children’s magazine Highlights  that had me laughing my ass off.

Taff’s story was one of my favorites not just because I am a huge fan of his work, but because it marked him trying something a little bit different. A lot of the stories I have read from Taff seem to be geared more towards emotional horror which helped him get the nickname “The King of Pain”, but Vision V is a more straightforward horror tale. It is a violent body horror piece that features more gore than any of his other stories and that sort of unexpected twist makes this one a knockout piece.

Thoughts on the collection

Overall, I Can Taste the Blood more than lives up to the hype that has been surrounding it. I had already read three of the authors previously – Malerman, Stone, and Taff – so getting to read new stories from them was something that I was obviously looking forward to and the main selling point for me in regards to checking out this book. However, I was also able to discover two new writers who I really enjoyed. I honestly haven’t read anything like Johnson’s entry before and while I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp the meaning of that story, it was a fun journey. As for Schwartz, his story made me want to run out and read everything he has ever written. I mean he is that good.

This is another stellar entry into the Grey Matter Press catalog and is an essential addition to any dark fiction fans library with its variety of styles and unique vision. While there is no denying Taff’s talent as an author and storyteller, I Can Taste the Blood also shows that he is one hell of an editor and I hope this isn’t the last project he assembles (though I would hate for it to impact his writing output!). I Can Taste the Blood is a brilliant collection and a really fun read. I really can’t recommend this one enough!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

I Can Taste the Blood Official Anthology Website 

Grey Matter Press Official Website 

Purchase I Can Taste the Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Grey Matter Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

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Use these hashtags to help spread the word about I Can Taste the Blood! – #ICanTastetheBlood #5uniquevoices #horroranthologies #OneNightmare

I Can Taste the Blood Synopsis

Five Unique Voices.
From international bestselling author of BIRD BOX and Bram Stoker Award-nominee Josh Malerman — the newly minted master of modern horror — and Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS, John F.D. Taff; to the mind-bending surrealism of Erik T. Johnson; the darkly poetic prose of J. Daniel Stone and the transgressive mania of Joe Schwartz, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD offers up five novellas from five unique authors whose work consistently expands the boundaries of conventional fiction.

Five Disturbing Visions.
I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD opens the doors to a movie theater of the damned; travels the dusty, sin-drenched desert with an almost Biblical mysterious stranger; recounts the phantasmagoric story of birth, death and rebirth; contracts a hit that’s not at all what it seems; and exposes the disturbing possibilities of what might be killing Smalltown, U.S.A.

One Nightmare.
As diverse as they are, in voice and vision, the work of the five celebrated authors assembled in this stunning volume of terror share one common theme, one hideous and terrifying nightmare that can only be contained within the pages ofI CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.

Praise for I Can Taste the Blood

“Only a group of psychopaths would assemble a book such as this. Bloody brilliant, and beautifully executed. Taste this.” – Michael Bailey, Bram Stoker Award-winning editor of THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD

I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD is a tour de force for Grey Matter Press and for the five outstanding dark fiction authors gathered here. If you’ve read their work before, then you’ll know what we’re talking about, and if you haven’t, you won’t find a better place to start than right here.” – Shane Douglas Keene, THIS IS HORROR

“Very unique and the stories are very very different. A powerful, unexpected collection. A real page turner.” – Robb Olson, BOOKED PODCAST

“It is the slow burn, the creeping doubt, the inherent violence, the lore made real. Through exotic locations, where the wind blows from within; flashing across the silver screen, violence echoing into the night; pulled from the trunk of a car, dark deeds that deserve retribution; a monster lying in wait, one more city down every road. Haunting and disturbing, even now, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD– Richard Thomas, author of BREAKER and TRIBULATIONS

“While this quintet of authors may taste the blood, we readers will feel the frightof their nightmare visions, sense the dread, the thrills, the awe of their standout voices. MALERMAN, STONE, SCHWARTZ, JOHNSON, and TAFF: The five points of a brilliant star that herald short horror mastery.” – Eric J. Guignard, fictionist, winner of the Bram Stoker Award and finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award

 Praise for Grey Matter Press

“Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence via both a series of killer anthologies —SPLATTERLANDS, OMINOUS REALITIES, EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED — and John F.D. Taff’s harrowing novella collection THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS.” – FANGORIA

“The dark, all-encompassing theme seems to be the trademark of Grey Matter Press. When asked for a referral I often state without hesitation to the very press that has enchanted my reading attention.” – Dave Gammon, HORROR NEWS

Author Biographies

Josh Malerman

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Josh Malerman is the author of Bird Box and Ghastle and Yule and some forty other novels and stories that he wishes he could release all in one day… and he just might do that! He lives in Michigan with his fiancee Allison Laakko and their two cats Dewey and Frankie. Used to be three cats, but Dandy died on Halloween, begging the question: will the color orange always make Josh sad? Or will he see Dandy amongst the pumpkins, deliriously, happily, for the rest of his days…

J. Daniel Stone

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Daniel Stone is the pseudonym for a hotheaded Italian kid from New York City. He has been a menace to society since 1987 and continues to terrorize local bookstores, art galleries and dive bars.

When he is not causing mischief, Stone reads, writes and attends as many rock shows as possible. He is the intermittently proud father of two bastard children: The Absence of Light (2013) and Blood Kiss (2016). Somewhere, out there in the dark, one can find more of his illegitimate spawns telling imaginative stories. Find him on Twitter @SolitarySpiral.

Joe Schwartz

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In 2008, Joe’s Black T-Shirt: Short Stories About St. Louis was published as a personal favor for friends of Joe Schwartz. The idea that people outside of Schwartz’s limited Midwestern world could find these dark, and occasionally personal, stories entertaining was as exciting as it was mysterious for the first-time author. Since then, he has written two more collections of short stories as well as the novels A Season Without Rain and Adam Wolf and The Cook Brothers – A Tale of Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll. The kind of stories he tells have been described as “a sharp punch to the gut” and disarming “like a sunny day in Hell.”

Erik T. Johnson

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Erik T. Johnson doesn’t believe in order or boxes. He became a writer because he can’t make a straight line to save his life—since stories consist of terrifically asymmetrical, random sequences of random shapes. Also because of what Georges Bataille meant by: “I write the way a child cries: a child slowly relinquishes the reasons he has for being in tears.”

Johnson is a Written Backwards DARWA Voice Award-winner whose fiction appears in renowned places, such as Space & Time Magazine, Tales of the Unanticipated, Qualia Nous, and all three volumes of the award-winning Chiral Mad series.

Erik is certain unreliable narrators don’t exist—only unreliable authors. He will prove his uncompromising reliability when his first book of short stories is published in 2016.

Visit Erik at http://www.eriktjohnson.net.

Stalk him on Twitter @YES_TRESPASSING.

Curse him at your own risk, do other stuff when it suits you.

John F.D. Taff

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John F.D. Taff has been writing for about 25 years now, with more than eighty short stories and four novels in print. Six of his stories have been awarded honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror & Fantasy.

His collection Little Deaths was named the best horror fiction collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. His 2014 collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, was published by Grey Matter Press. Jack Ketchum called it “the best novella collection I’ve read in years,” and it was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.

Taff’s work also appears in Single Slices, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories andThe Beauty of Death.

He lives in the wilds of Illinois with a wife, a cat and three pugs.

Like to Feature?

If you are a professional blogger or media outlet, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi at hookofabook@hotmail.com about a review copy or to schedule an interview or feature with any of the authors.

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BOOK INFO

Length: 384 Pages

Publisher: Kensington

Release Date: July 26, 2016

Review copy provided as part of The Night Parade Blog Tour

The Night Parade opens in the thick of the action, with David Arlen and his 8-year-old daughter Ellie on the run from authorities. A disease known as Wanderer’s Folly is sweeping across the globe, killing millions of the people in the worst outbreak in recent memory. He is consumed with fear about what he may need to do to keep his daughter safe and it has been at least 2 days since he has slept. All they have with them is some extra food and clothes, $600 and some games. He also has a gun with 2 boxes of ammo, but he has never shot one before and doesn’t know if he will even be able to use it on someone should it come to that. David and Ellie are racing across the country, trying to survive and elude the people who are after them both. David is keeping secrets from his daughter about why they are on the run and what really happened to her mother. As they journey across the United States, David and Ellie will be faced with horrifying challenges that will put their relationship to the ultimate test.

The Night Parade is a novel that made a lasting, emotional impression on me and as is the case with most of Malfi’s work, his characters and the way he handles their personalities is large reason for that. The Night Parade is meant for any reader, but as a soon-to-be father, the characters of David and Ellie are the ones I gravitated towards the most. Malfi does an excellent job bringing readers into their family dynamic and getting to know them is part of what makes this novel great.

I am about to have a daughter of my own and I couldn’t help but connect with David. Sure, he makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but I can relate to his desire to protect his little girl at all costs. It is the small moments that occur throughout the novel that really show these characters personalities and makes the characters come to life. While David and Ellie are on the run, David is often overcome with doubt about his plans to keep them safe and to keep people from recognizing them. That doubt is very realistic. Most post-apocalyptic novels feature ordinary people who adapt to their environment with ease, mastering the art of stealth and survival almost instantly. As much as we would all like to think that is how we would react in an apocalyptic scenario, the truth is most of us would probably be like David. David has some good ideas on how to stay safe, but it is clear he is an amateur in situations like these and he is often filled with doubt and fueled by adrenaline.“I learned that when you become a parent, you become a secondary character in the story of your own life.” That one simple line struck a chord in me and really sums up David’s character pretty accurately. He is always putting his daughter first, consequences be damned.

While I connected to David the most, I think Ellie is the most interesting character in The Night Parade by far. Ellie is intelligent and often asks David probing questions while they are on the run that proves she doesn’t necessarily believe everything her father is telling her. Ellie may only be 9-years-old, but she is incredibly brave and resourceful. No matter what horrors she faces, she never seems frozen by fear and sometimes her actions are the only reason they get out of danger. There are quite a few moments in The Night Parade where it may seem like some of the things she does seem unrealistic given her age, but once you learn more about Ellie, it makes perfect sense.  She also serves as a moral compass to some degree. When David breaks into an abandoned store, she scolds him for breaking and entering. When he tries to joke that there is no cops, she says that it still doesn’t make it right. She also is constantly questioning her father’s choices, asking him why they made that choice and asking how it is different from what other people do. It really makes you question what you would do in that situation. I really wish I could talk more about what makes Ellie such a great character, but that would ruin the journey for readers. Trust me though, once you get to know Ellie, you’ll love her.

While they are great characters on their own, the strength of these characters comes from the great portrayal of their relationship. David is trying his best to keep her safe, but Ellie is often mad when she feels like David is treating her like a little kid. As the novel progresses, we see David struggle with the fact that his little girl is growing up and Ellie begins asserting her independence. While you would think David would be the one primarily taking care of Ellie, they form more of a partnership. There are moments where David relies on his daughter, like when he is inspired by Ellie’s childhood quirk of lining toys up in front of the door. David remembers that memory and sets up mace and lighters in front of the door like an alarm system. There are also scenes where they are faced with real horrors and danger, and David uses jokes to try to take Ellie’s mind off of the craziness going on around them.

I also really liked David’s brother, Tim. Tim is the type of person who was born to survive these situations. He has always been paranoid over government surveillance, so he stopped carrying a cell so the NSA couldn’t track him. He also loved living off the grid, so he was able to cultivate the skills to be self-reliant well before the outbreak occurred. Tim is bursting with personality and has the ability to crack a good joke. Where as he was portrayed as kind of an oddball earlier in the novel, he is a really interesting character. He is entrepreneurial even in the face of the apocalypse and runs all kinds of businesses, including making his own moonshine. He is also super smart, using a childhood memory as a code between him and David. He is a pragmatist, but he does hold out hope for optimism.

I also thought it was interesting that Malfi takes a look at how society may react to such a horrific disease outbreak. In the aftermath of the outbreak, cult-like groups begin popping up all over the country. The most well-known group is the “Worlders”. They believe the Folly is a biological version of the biblical flood, a way to wipe the slate clean and start over. They are one of the more widely known groups and are frightening in their methodology, but they are far from the only group out there. I thought the addition of these groups was a nice touch because it makes the events surrounding the Wanderer’s Folly outbreak more realistic. It only makes sense that people would band together to form groups to help cope with the new reality they are faced with and in some cases, use to exploit their agendas.

While the characters of this book are what really connected with me, I was impressed with Malfi’s catalyst for the apocalypse. Wanderer’s Folly is a devastating disease that is unlike anything scientists have ever seen before. One of David’s co-workers likened it to The Black Death, where there are no answers or ways to stop it because no one has ever seen anything quite like it. No one is sure where it came from or how it is contracted. All scientists really know is that it poisons, attacks and ultimately kills the brain. Due to how widespread it was, it was initially thought to be airborne, but that was later proven to be a myth. Others thought it was already in the human body, just waiting for a trigger to set it off. It has a varied incubation period and people who have the disease could last for hours or weeks.

What makes Wanderer’s Folly so interesting isn’t that it is incredibly lethal or the effects it has on people (though those are important components to the story), but rather the fact that it is believable. It seems like Malfi did a lot of medical research in order to make Wanderer’s Folly a believable illness that will chill readers because it sounds like a supercharged version of a real-life disease that already affects millions of people worldwide.

The reaction to the disease is also very realistic.  People wear those cheap carpenter masks over their mouth after it was initially suggested that the disease was airborne. Though it was quickly proven that they were useless, people still clung to the hope they provided. People also wore them as a status symbol almost to show they were free of the disease, a sort of xenophobic reaction that caused divides among people. That attitude let people to be suspicious of even the most minor, ever day things.

I really liked Malfi’s use of setting. There are some lines that Malfi uses to describe his setting that are so simple, and yet beautiful in how striking they are. Take this one for instance, “He could smell gasoline and could hear the buzzing cadence of insects in the surrounding trees”. Trying to pick out all of the great settings in The Night Parade could be a review by itself, but I loved Tim’s compound. There are “No trespassing” signs everywhere, the windows are all shuttered, and there are antenna’s all over the roof. Basically, it is exactly what you would imagine a conspiracy theorists house to look like.

The Night Parade is a post-apocalyptic novel and while you may have preconceptions about what the world is like, I really liked the way that Malfi approached it. It wasn’t complete devastation with the world turning into nothing but one indistinguishable swath of wasteland, it was a gradual change. The events take place over the course of about two years. Over that time, there is chaos and paranoia, but the world Malfi envisions in The Night Parade is halfway between normal and the sort of apocalyptic scenario you would imagine. The grid hasn’t collapsed and people still go about their lives, it’s just that they are so debilitated by paranoia. They are staying in a motel in a rural downtown area and most of the shops were closed. There is great description here about blackened windows, weeds bursting from cracks in the sidewalks. However in the midst of all that disrepair and seeming desolate stretch of town, there is a convenience store that is still open, despite the fact all of the stuff inside seems old and mismatched.

David and Ellie also spend some time in a town long thought to be abandoned called Goodwin. However, you can’t always believe what you read as Goodwin isn’t as empty as it appears. When they first arrive, they see signs with biblical messages and crosses erected all over the shoulder leading into town.

The Night Parade has an interesting structure in that it alternates between flashbacks showing the origins of the disease and the present. As the main narrative progresses, so does the “flashback” story line. Any time there are alternating timelines, I feel like that is a risky choice because it can confuse the reader. However, Malfi pulls it off with ease. Each narrative is engaging and it helps keep the novel from hitting too many lulls. By relegating the outbreak largely to the flashback chapters, it allows Malfi to dive in right to the action and the mystery it cultivates hooks readers and makes them want to learn more. Also, rather than have everything result from one devastating incident, the outbreak of Wanderer’s Folly is slowly revealed over the period of two years until it finally merges with the “present day” story line. There is also a lot of foreshadowing that goes on and that attention to detail and nuanced storytelling is why Malfi is one of my favorite writers.

There are plenty of creepy scenes throughout The Night Parade, but they are more about building a feeling of dread than over the top scares or buckets worth of blood and guts. A majority of them come as a direct result of the Wanderer’s Folly, where Malfi takes situations that would otherwise seem harmless and mundane and warps it into something deeply unsettling. A prime example of that would be an early scene where David and his wife Kathy hear ice cream truck music in the dead of winter. That is the first time in my life I have ever been afraid of that recognizable jingle and once you read it, you will understand why. It is moments like that and the interactions David has with people afflicted with the disease that make the Wanderer’s Folly scarier than any supernatural being or monster. It inflicts a surreal element into everyday life and that sense of strangeness is downright frightening. Then there is the moment that David and Ellie meet Solomon. I still can’t get over that scene!

While The Night Parade is a post-apocalyptic novel with one of the creepiest, most devastating catalysts that I can remember,  it really boils down to one family’s fight for survival and to stay together at all costs. There are so many reasons that I could list for The Night Parade being one of my favorite novels of the year –  great characters, a brilliant disease that launches  the apocalypse, or some truly pulse-pounding scenes – but the main reason I loved this was its emotional impact. I mentioned why I was so drawn to David and my own personal situation that made this book standout for me, and that is a big part of it. But man, there is just no denying Malfi’s ability to get readers to emotionally invest in his characters. After riding across the country with David and Ellie, you get to know them intimately and there are numerous moments between them that just tug at the heartstrings. I’m not going to lie, there were quite a few times while I was reading this that I got a bit misty-eyed. That almost never happens, whether it is a book or a movie, but I’ll be damned if this book didn’t make me tear up a bit. This story is scary, but it has a ton of heart. I really can’t praise this one enough, and if you enjoyed Josh Malerman’s Bird Box or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, you are going to love The Night Parade!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Ronald Malfi’s Official Website

Kensington Publishing Official Website

Purchase The Night Parade: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

The Night Parade tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Night Parade! – #TheNightParade #WanderersFolly #apocalyptichorror

The Night Parade Synopsis

First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

They call it Wanderer’s Folly–a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares. A plague threatening to wipe out the human race.

After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking that the worst was over. By midnight, he’s bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he’s on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure.

Ellie is a special girl. Deep. Insightful. And she knows David is lying to her. Lying about her mother. Lying about what they’re running from. And lying about what he sees when he takes his eyes off the road . . .

Praise for Ronald Malfi

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting, the words, the ending. Color me impressed.” –Melissa Reads on The Night Parade

“The Night Parade has a creepy vibe and some genuinely terrifying moments. I even teared up a time or two. It’s everything I look for in a great read.” – Frank Errington on The Night Parade

“One cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub and Stephen King.” FearNet

“Malfi is a skillful storyteller.”—New York Journal of Books

“A complex and chilling tale….terrifying.”—Robert McCammon

“Malfi’s lyrical prose creates an atmosphere of eerie claustrophobia…haunting.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed.”Suspense Magazine

About Ronald Malfi

Malfi headshot

Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of many novels and novellas in the horror, mystery, and thriller categories from various publishers, including The Night Parade, this summer’s 2016 release from Kensington.

In 2009, his crime drama, Shamrock Alley, won a Silver IPPY Award. In 2011, his ghost story/mystery novel, Floating Staircase, was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for best novel, a Gold IPPY Award for best horror novel, and the Vincent Preis International Horror Award. His novel Cradle Lake garnered him the Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award (silver) in 2014. December Park, his epic childhood story, won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for suspense in 2015.

Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two children.

Visit with Ronald Malfi on Facebook, Twitter (@RonaldMalfi), or at www.ronmalfi.com.

Want to feature this book/author?

If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and you would like to feature The Night Parade or Ronald Malfi in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com. Thanks!

Today I am happy to have John Quick on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of his excellent debut novel Consequences (review). Quick’s novel is a really fun summer read that will appeal to any horror fan, but particularly those who enjoy a good slasher story. Consequences is based on a real-life serial killer legend from Quick’s hometown and he uses that inspiration to craft a brutal novel that is full of great characters, plenty of action, and a formidable killer that will definitely give you the creeps! I really enjoyed Consequences and it seems Quick is poised for great things as he has signed to Sinister Grin Press for his follow-up novel.

During my interview with John, we talked about his writing process, his influences, the inspiration and history behind Consequences, bits of publishing stuff, and some of his upcoming work. This was an awesome interview and it was really cool to talk to John about his love of writing and some behind the scenes aspects of his work. A big thank you to John for stopping by to answer my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

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Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how did you first get started in writing and what led you to pursue it professionally?

Thanks so much for having me!

I’ve always liked to read and write, so that part of it just seemed to come naturally. I was an only child, so there were many times growing up where I found myself with nothing to do other than to read. Thankfully, my parents encouraged that; they didn’t seem to care what I was reading so long as I was reading something.

I think it’s a natural extension of writing to eventually think about doing it for a living. I love to create, and I love even more to think about something I created maybe inspiring someone else to do the same. Ever since seeing pictures of John Skipp, Craig Spector, and David J. Schow in the leather jackets and sunglasses in Fangoria magazine years ago, writers have been like rock stars to me, and since I don’t have the musical talent to go that route, writing seemed like the next best thing [laughs].

What is a typical day of writing like for you? Do you have a set process or is it something that varies depending on the day?

Since I got serious about it, I’ve been pretty consistent; I write at night, after the family’s gone to bed. I go out on my back patio with the laptop, smokes, and a couple of beers, and go until the night’s chapter is done—doesn’t matter how long it takes, and sometimes it can get a bit brutal [laughs]. I do have a day job, so there are times I’m exhausted when I get there, but the satisfaction I feel doing something I love every night makes it worth it. Mondays and Wednesdays are usually edit days; I’ll print out a manuscript, and jot down things with a red pen throughout the week, then plug them in on those days.

I have learned to take time off now and then, just not usually longer than two days running. If I do, apparently I get grumpy (according to my family [laughs]).

I have read your blog and see you were a big fan of shows like the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. What was it about these shows that appealed to you growing up?

I think it came from living out in the middle of nowhere, and the sense of isolation that came along with that. We had a couple of acres, and there wasn’t a house right next door on either side, so you could definitely walk outside and feel like you were the only person around for miles, even if that wasn’t the case. Beyond that, I’ve just always had a thing for the strange, and thankfully that never went away as I got older.

You mentioned on your blog that in July of 2015 you decided to start Consequences. Within that year, you ended up writing 10 first drafts, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment. What do you think helped spark that creative drive?

Just finally hitting a point where I was in the right mindset for it. I’d tried writing before, even tried going the traditional publishing route about ten years ago or so with no success. At that time, I had dreams of bestseller lists dancing in my head, and quitting my job on the basis of a single advance. As a result, it took me nearly a year to get one manuscript finished, and it was nowhere near ready for anyone else to look at.

Then I turned forty, and I realized that if I really wanted to do this, I’d better get to it before it was too late.

This time around, I just wanted to get something I’d written out there. I had no plans to quit the day job, and was of a mind that if I sold one copy to someone I didn’t know, I’d done what I set out to do. I’d also managed to get my hands on a copy of Richard Laymon’s A Writer’s Tale, and read the line “Write the books you want to read.” As soon as I read that, a switch flipped and the words started flowing. Everything that’s happened since has been beyond my wildest dreams!

You allow readers to track your progress on your blog and you have four works currently going on. I have always wondered with writers that are working on multiple projects simultaneously, is it difficult to keep them all straight? What helps you get in the mindset of each project?

Usually it’s not so bad, because there’s only one new thing going at a time. I did just take on the insane task of working on a dark fantasy novel at the same time I was working on a creature feature, and the headache that caused guarantees I’ll never try that again [laughs]!

I also think that since the other stuff is just edits, and the story’s already down on paper, it makes it easier to compartmentalize. Even if I see a new scene that needs to be added, or a scene that needs a complete rewrite, I tend to do it on the fly, working with my gut instincts.

As for mindset, Consequences had been simmering for a year before I put down the first word on paper. After that, it was habit. I sit down at the laptop at the right time, and my brain just switches on and says “okay, let’s do this!”

Consequences is a horror novel that is rooted in the real world, with its basis coming from a true life legend. Do you prefer to write horror that is more realistic or are you more drawn to horror with supernatural elements? What is it about each one that appeals to you if you enjoy both?

Honestly, it depends on the story. I enjoy both, but I tend to favor realism over supernatural stuff. Maybe it’s a result of reading so much horror and watching so many movies in my life, that the moment it occurs to me that something could actually happen, it becomes immensely more terrifying to me.

That said, there’s something almost primal about a good ghost story. I think most of us grew up hearing those tales around the campfire, and I know growing up in the rural south I heard more than my fair share. I’ve been to Chapel Hill to find the ghost that walks on the railroad track, and visited the Bell Witch cave, and many of the other haunted locations in Tennessee. So when it’s translated into literary form, it still manages to strike that same primal impulse.

What was the hardest part about writing Consequences, whether from a story standpoint or the process of getting the book out there?

As far as the story, there were a few things that were a little tricky, but mostly it came easily. Getting it out there was an adventure, though. I did four drafts of it, then sent it to a publisher who was in the process of undergoing staff changes (to not name names). It got rejected about six months later, then that publisher announced they were closing, so I guess I see why it didn’t make the cut with them [laughs]. I decided to get it out there, got volunteers to edit and do cover art, then things happened and both of them dropped out as well. I finally got it done the best I could, hit “publish”, and suddenly realized that the fun was just starting! I owe a huge debt to Tristan over at Sinister Grin and Erin at Hook of a Book for helping to guide me through the headaches that came after that!

What was your experience like self-publishing Consequences? Is that something you would like to continue with future works in addition to releasing with presses or is your goal to work with presses?

There’s something to be said for the complete creative freedom that comes with self-publishing, and I would definitely do it again. Now that I have a better idea what to expect from it, and what to do to make it work, I think I might could do it without wanting to tear my hair out [laughs].

I’m still in the early stages of working with a press, so it’s hard to answer whether I’d prefer working with them over doing it myself, but so far it’s been great. I do kind of like the idea that my biggest worry is writing the story itself, and not all the things that go on behind the scenes.

I don’t want to give away too much about Consequences for those who haven’t read it yet, but it seems like there is the potential for a sort of “spin-off” series. Do you have any plans to revisit those characters?

Also without giving too much away, things are set into motion in the epilogue of Consequences that have continued on. I’ve actually done four books in a series about a couple of the characters mentioned there, with the first book currently making the rounds in submissions. One way or the other, it’ll see the light of day eventually.

Was that specifically vague enough for you? <Insert evil laugh here>

You recently signed with Sinister Grin Press for the release of your upcoming novel, The Journal of Jeremy Todd. How did you get in touch with them?

Luck, mostly! I happened to stumble across an announcement that they were accepting open submissions back in November, and knew I had to send them something. I first found out about them because of Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road, and then looked at some of their other stuff and realized they were doing good stuff. Jeremy Todd was the closest to being ready, so I spent a week destroying my brain to get a final draft ready for them, and sent it on. I got a request for the full manuscript on Christmas Eve (an awesome present, I should say), and now here we are!

Is there anything you can tell us about that release?

It’s the story of a guy who was bullied so badly in high school that he’s become a total loser. The story’s told in the form of his journal entries leading up to his twenty year reunion, and we see how his mind degrades as he remembers more and more about his past, with gruesome and visceral results.

It’s also the darkest thing I’ve done yet, so take the time before it comes out to prepare! I know my wife really struggled reading it, and honestly, I struggled writing it, so hopefully that comes through on the page.

Do you have a preference between the novel format and some of the shorter formats (short story, novella, flash fiction, etc)? What do you enjoy about each style of storytelling?

While the ideas I come up with tend toward longer works, I love shorter ones, too. Maybe it was a part of that mindset thing, but I’ve finally started dipping my toes into the short story pond, and even have one coming out in an anthology this fall (Full Moon Slaughter, edited by Toneye Eyenot for JEA Press).

To me, the story is what dictates the length, not a conscious decision. Sometimes the point can be made fast, other times it takes longer. As long as it’s good, I’ll read it whatever format it’s in!

Reading your blog it seems like you have an interest in learning the ins and outs of publishing, even giving readers a look at how Consequence has been doing in various formats. What do you like about learning the publishing side of the business? I think it’s cool that you share what you have learned to help other authors or to help educate readers who are interested in that information.

I was a manager in a bookstore several years ago, so I got to see first-hand how things went on that end. There were always people coming in and wondering why we wouldn’t carry their PublishAmerica books, or pretty much anything that didn’t come from one of the major publishers. I started looking into it, and once I decided to do it myself, wanted to know exactly what I was getting into.

It also struck me that for the number of people actually trying to be writers, there was precious little valid information on what they needed to do to get their work out there. Internet searches give thousands and thousands of results, many of which contradict one another. Even books by big name authors give useful information, but when it comes to the publishing side aren’t as helpful as they could be, since those authors had some breaks that are more difficult to come by now.

So I figured I’d show what I went through during the process, so people could look at it and see that it’s not as easy as it’s been made out to be, and that there’s a lot more that goes with it than just hitting the publish button on KDP or Smashwords or whatever. I’m also one of those weird people who believe that if you’re going to do something, know everything you can about it so there’s no surprises anywhere down the line.

You give readers who visit your blog a very in-depth look at the inspirations for your stories and the “behind the scenes” look at your writing process. Is that something that is important to you, to let readers see how each book has come to life?

One of my favorite things in Stephen King’s short story collections is when he tells where the idea came from for each tale. Likewise, I love watching the “How it was Made” documentaries on DVDs and Blu-Rays. I actually remember seeing the specials on television about how they made Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was a kid, so maybe that’s where it comes from.

But in any creative endeavor, I think people naturally wonder how it came to be. Writers have always talked about the age-old question of “where do you get your ideas”, so this is just my way of heading them off at the pass. Besides, I’m still so new to this that I get excited talking about my craft. Check back with me in fifteen years or so and maybe I’ll be a little grumpier about it [laughs].

What horror novel had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers that you recently started reading?

There’s actually four that clicked home for me and made me want to do something similar, and they’re kind of an evolutionary thing. First would be Pet Sematary and It by Stephen King, because of the way he was able to evoke emotion seemingly on a whim, and the turns of phrase he used that put you right there in the story. Then it was The Scream by Skipp and Spector, which I consider my introduction to the Splatterpunks. Rock n’ roll and horror have always been natural bedfellows, and this just slammed them together like Alice Cooper in book form. On top of that, this was more blood than King let flow, and had an edge that he also didn’t have. Then came Darkness, Tell Us by Richard Laymon, which was the book that made me realize I didn’t have to hold back, that I could just tell the tale full-bore and not worry if someone else flinched while reading it, so long as I didn’t flinch while writing it.

As to the current writers I just started reading, there’s way too many to list. I’ll limit myself to the last year or so just to make it manageable: Jonathan Janz, David Bernstein, Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea, Somer Canon, and let’s not forget the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason!

If you could choose any writer to collaborate or talk about writing with, who would you choose and why?

I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to talk to some of my contemporaries whom I respect, thanks to social media and the wonderful online family that is the horror community. If there’s one that I would love to work with, or pick their brain, it would be Richard Laymon. I only regret that I didn’t discover his work while he was still alive, or maybe I’d have had that chance.

I know you have a ton of works in progress and you are fairly open with sharing that information, but is there anything else you are working on that you are excited about sharing?

My haunted house story Hidden Hearts just went out for editing, and I’m really excited for it to hit the release stage! It’s tamer in many ways than Consequences and Jeremy Todd, but it’s also the one that still manages to choke me up near the end, even after three drafts. I can’t wait for people to read it! I also am excited about getting the Cochran Investigations books out there (oops, minor spoiler!), just because since they were so fun to write, I’m hoping people will have just as much fun reading them!

Thanks again for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf John and answering my questions. I really enjoy your work and I am looking forward to reading more of your stuff in the future!

Thanks again for having me, and stay tuned! There’s much more to come!

LINKS

John Quick’s Official Website

Purchase Consequences: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Books-A-Million, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Consequences tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Consequences!- #Consequences #summerofterror #crazyfreddy

Consequences Synopsis

It was a summer of blood and terror…

For seven friends, graduation night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of their high school careers and the start of their real lives.

But when an accident while partying at the local haunted house results in tragedy, they find themselves being hunted by a maniac for whom the stakes are decidedly personal.

Thirty years ago, Crazy Freddy hung his family up with barbed wire and skinned them alive. Now, the survivors can only hope for such a kindness as they are forced to accept that for everything they do, there will be CONSEQUENCES.

Praise for Consequences

“The character work here is pretty impressive, particularly for a first-time novelist.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Let Go

John Quick takes you inside the mind of a psycho path in this thriller. I read it in only two sittings because the pacing kept me turning the pages. Very well written, I enjoyed the dialogue very much, especially the young people being hunted by the killer. It felt believable and well developed.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of Mayan Blue

John Quick Biography

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John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world.

 His debut novel, Consequences is available now as a paperback or digital eBook. Watch for his next novel to come from Sinister Grin Press in 2017. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and three dogs that think they’re kids.

 When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at: http://johnquickauthor.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you like to feature?

If you would like to review Consequences or feature John with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com .

Chasing Ghosts cover

BOOK INFO

Length: 102 Pages

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Chasing Ghosts

Anyone who has been following my blog knows that I am a huge fan of Glenn’s books. I have been following his work ever since his debut The Haunted Halls and it seems like he just keeps getting better with each book. So when Chasing Ghosts was announced, it instantly shot to the top of my list of most anticipated books. As soon as you crack the cover on Chasing Ghosts, you will notice the novella is dedicated his to Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene and Jonathan Janz. If you are a fan of any or all of those writers, this should give you a good idea of what to expect and it definitely captures the spirit of those writers.

“Rumors were usually born from some kind of truth”

The novella opens introducing readers to Jesse Gerrard, a bit of a rebel who occasionally gets into trouble with his friends who dare each other to do crazy stunts like blowing up M80’s at school. Jesse knows his father is cheating on his mother and it is weighing heavily on his mind. Trying to flee his tense situation at home, Jesse grabs his coat and storms out of the house to meet up with his buddies Davey and Luke at the old Cobb place. While his dad attempts to stop him and talk to him about the incident with the M80’s, he tells his dad he is “chasing ghosts” and then he is gone. Those are the last words he will ever say to his father.

When they get to the Cobb house, it doesn’t take long for the dares to begin and each one trying to prove their toughness. Davey dares Jesse to pick up a rotting rabbit carcass, which he does with no problem. The smell is stomach churning, but Jesse’s ego won’t let him look like a chicken in front of the new kid. However, Jesse takes it a step further and chucks it through a window into the now abandoned home. Glenn builds great tension by slowly incorporating the legends that swirl around the Cobb house, like that Zachariah ate his own baby and their reputation as a group of redneck cannibals.

Luke instantly is filled with fear and is trying to convince Davey and Jesse to run, but while they are bickering and before they can move a muscle, they hear an ominous grinding noise coming from inside the Cobb House. Jesse thought they were out there all alone, but that sound indicates otherwise. They duck for cover, but once again, Jesse’s desire to prove his toughness leads him to go right up to the house. Even though his friends are scared, all he can think of is showing off and he climbs inside the house! I know I am a horror fan, but if I am being honest, I am a scaredy-cat in real life. There is no way in HELL I would be going inside that place if I was Jesse!

It doesn’t take much longer for all hell to break loose. I won’t get into what happens, but I was reading this and my jaw dropped because it is so early in the story and Glenn just goes straight for the jugular. It is right around this moment I knew Chasing Ghosts was going to be one hell of a ride!

Following that opening, we are left to ponder the fate of the group of friends in the woods and the story shifts its focus to another group of characters. Jack, Ian, and Connor are members of the punk band The New 45 and they are on their way out to a gig at a secluded cabin in the woods where a wild party is taking place. While they complain about having to play in the middle of nowhere, they are planning to have a great show and have fun partying until all hours of the night.

After meeting the band we are introduced to Jesse’s parents Derek and Heather, who are dealing with the fallout over their son’s disappearance. Heather found out about Derek’s girlfriend Melody and the stress of the affair and their son’s disappearance has left the couple’s marriage in shambles. Derek is beaten down by the emotional toll of losing his son and while his wife holds out hope he is still alive, he knows that he is gone. After their fight, Derek goes out on his bike and finds himself rocketing toward Cobb Road. He remembered his son liked to come out here and cause Zachariah trouble. As he is traveling down the road, he sees a strange person crossing the road and a frightening encounter ultimately leads him to the cabin where the band is playing.

When the band’s lead singer goes missing, Derek can’t help but think if the strange person he saw out on the road. He joins Connor and Ian as they search for their friend and they will find themselves battered, bloody, and doing whatever they can to survive the hell they have found themselves in.

One of my favorite scenes in Chasing Ghosts is when Derek’s best friend Mike fills Melody in on the wild history of the Cobb’s and the woods they called home. Now, I don’t know how other readers will feel about it, but I loved that Rolfe gradually explained the legends surrounding the woods. By giving out a little bit of the history at a time, it helps amplify the mystery that haunts the pages of this story. Mike’s retelling gives readers a more complete history of the Cobb’s and sets a very creepy atmosphere for the back half of the novella. The way Mike tells the story with perfect pacing, it feels like the sort of campfire ghost story that has you ready to leap out of your skin at the smallest noise.

Glenn’s characterization is truly exceptional in Chasing Ghosts. Glenn manages to introduce a variety of interesting characters and none of them feel like they get lost and the action never lags, even as we jump from different characters view points. Even the minor characters pop off the page, like the scraggly hipster that first greats the band at the cabin. The depiction of Jesse and his friends relationship is perfect and kind of reminded me of the kids in Stranger Things. They get each other to do stupid dares like screwing around at the Cobb Place and blowing up M80’s at school. They have no problem teasing each other, but you get the sense that their friendship is incredibly strong and that they would do anything for each other. Out of all of those characters though, Luke was definitely my favorite. He is one of the youngest characters in the book and is subjected to horrors that would break most anyone regardless of age. Despite all of the stuff he endures throughout the novella, he never gives up and fights for his life every step of the way.

I also loved the way Glenn portrays the killer that attacks the band and Derek out in the woods. He is over six feet tall and a physically imposing figure. Connor tries to attack him, but when he hits him full speed, he does little more than make the guy stumble. The group’s run-in with this guy made me think of classic movies like Friday the 13th, where even the strongest character couldn’t even phase Jason with their best effort. Connor, Ian, and Derek try to take him on and inflict an extreme amount of punishment, but it hardly phases him and still kicks their asses. This fight scene was one of my favorite moments of the book, unrelenting action that is pumping with adrenaline. There are other aspects about the Cobb family that I thought were extremely well done, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book yet. Trust me though, you won’t be disappointed! More than once I got chills while I was reading this.

Honestly, Chasing Ghosts is one of the scariest books I have read in a while and it may just be Glenn’s darkest work yet. Once you get to the back half of the novella, it is pretty much a barrage of action and extremely bleak situations. I mean lines like this: “I could see his brains on the leaves. I could see his brains on the leaves” are devastatingly effective and only scratch the surface of the blood-soaked brutality that plays out in the woods surrounding the infamous Cobb property. There is also one scene with one of the characters in the woods towards the end of the book that honestly made me wince because I could only imagine the pain that character was experiencing.

I remember reading a blog post about this one and Glenn mentioned how he wanted to capture the tone of the Leisure Books that he was a huge fan of and I feel he does that in spades. Chasing Ghosts has the feel of a vintage horror novel that is chock full of blood, guts, and pulse-pounding action. I love all of Glenn’s different types of stories, but it was awesome to see him go back the extreme horror that was on display in his debut. This was a blast to read and as a horror fan, Chasing Ghosts has everything I could want in a great horror story. I grew up around the woods and while it can be a peaceful place during the day, as a young kid who loved horror movies, the setting was terrifying at night. Rolfe definitely taps into that fear with Chasing Ghosts, which is definitely my favorite novella of the year. I highly recommend grabbing a copy and I can’t wait to see what Glenn comes up with next!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Glenn Rolfe’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase Chasing Ghosts: Amazon, Barnes & NobleSinister Grin Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Chasing Ghosts tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Chasing Ghosts! – #ChasingGhosts #Rolfed #WoodsPeople

Chasing Ghosts Synopsis

The Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.

Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.

Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.

Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.

Praise for Glenn Rolfe

Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I’ve encountered in recent years.” — Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh

“Glenn Rolfe’s new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die).” — Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage

 “Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I’ve read about in recent times.” — Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid

“Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well.” — Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel

“There is a definite old school feel about this novella (Things We Fear). It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax.” – Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror

Glenn Rolfe Biography

Glenn Rolfe author photo

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the novellas, Abram’s BridgeBoom TownThings We Fear, and the forthcoming, Chasing Ghosts; the short fiction collection, Slush; and the novels, The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain.

His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released in March 2016.

Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Chasing Ghosts or feature Glenn Rolfe, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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BOOK INFO

Length: 232 Pages

Publisher: EyeCue Productions/The Sinister Horror Company 

Release Date: July 25, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Hexagram

I have heard a lot of great things about Duncan Bradshaw’s work and the independent publishing company he helped found, The Sinister Horror Company, so I was excited to join the blog tour for his latest novel Hexagram. Hexagram is an interesting novel because it is made up of six distinct stories that take place over many centuries. The novel starts off with a prologue of sorts that is ironically titled, Journey’s End. This opening features a father and his young daughter making a perilous climb up the side of a mountain, racing to the summit for something. There is green vapor swirling around the top and as their energy starts to fade, they wonder if they will ever reach the top.  Behind them, they can hear sounds of torment and claws down below which helps them press forward. When they reach the top, they see other groups of people who made the same journey watching the stars too.

This beginning is kind of confusing, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine it starting any other way. It helped me invest in the story because I had so many unanswered questions swirling in my head like “Where are these people from?” and “What is the significance of the journey?” It mentions they had to survive a journey and six trials to get there and I would have loved to hear about those sections! The little girl asks her father which star is hers and he replies for her to be patient, it is yet to be born. With that, Bradshaw begins to take readers on a windy, joy ride that spans centuries and offers a look at a variety of different situations and people. The easiest way to talk about Hexagram is to take a look at each individual sections, so I broke down what I liked about each section and then added my thoughts on the novel as a whole at the end.

Cuzco, former Inca Empire March 4, 1538

The first story opens with a man named Matias, who is wasted and on his way to his barracks after a night on the town. Stumbling home after a night with Palla, he runs into a group of mysterious priests who knock him out. When he wakes up, he is tied up in a cave with the priests preparing him for some sort of ritual. He is restrained and after they anoint him with a greasy liquid, the horrific ritual begins. Bradshaw displays a lot of great detail in this ritual scene and readers can feel the terror Matias experiences in the cave. Bradshaw makes readers cringe with simple, descriptive lines like, “Further waves of pain washed over him as nodules of bone were scored and clusters of dense nerve endings severed”. It is lines like these that prove Bradshaw definitely isn’t going to shy away from violence and there are plenty of gruesome scenes here that will appeal to readers who don’t mind a little blood and gore in their horror.

In the midst of the sacrifice, there is a battle of ideologies that unfolds between two priests in the religious order, Poma and Amaru. They share the goal of raising the sun-god Inti, to use against the conquistadors, but they have differing opinions on what tactics to use. Poma only wants to sacrifice pure Inca people, but Amaru insists his way is faster,  and will also get them revenge against those who have come to their land and destroyed everything they hold dear.

Rodrigo Quintaro is the leader of conquistadors and he is shocked when his men find Matias, completely hollowed out, hanging from a belfry at Santo Domingo. Despite there calls for blood and vengeance, Rodrigo does not want to go on a war path as he only cares about one thing – his quest for El Dorado and grabbing up as much gold as he can. Unfortunately, it is this greed that leads Rodrigo and his men into a deadly showdown that sets off a chain of events that will last for centuries.

While Hexagram may sort of seem like a mash-up of a few genres, there is no denying this is a horror novel. One of my favorite scenes in this story is when one Incans were sacrificed and should have been dead, she sits bolt upright and screams. Had this been a movie, I probably would have rocketed out of my seat! There are also some truly awesome fight scenes between the conquistadors and priests as they go back and forth trying to kill each other off. This is a great story to kick off the collection and there is hardly a dull moment.

Presidio Santa Maria de Galve Pensacola, Florida 1716

This story is written in a confessional style format from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who is accused of horrific crimes. He was the captain of a ship that was tasked with retrieving treasure from the new world, but the ship went through a terrible storm that killed a lot of his men and left them stranded in the new world. While this story ultimately picks up steam later on, I thought it started off kind of slow.

After a few days spent adjusting to their surroundings, the stranded sailors took to living in caves and there is now only 37 of them out of the 112 that originally worked on the ship. They are barely clinging to life when they begin getting attacked by the Native Americans, who impale the head of one of the crew on a spike to send a message. The crew has been living in caves and the fear of suffering more gruesome displays of violence begins to drive them crazy. The natives psychologically torture the narrator and his men and when they finally come face to face, the leader of the native presents them with the scalps of his men, setting the stage for war. The war ultimately leads the narrator to find information about the rituals introduced earlier in the novel and allows this knowledge to consume him.

This story marks one mans descent into madness and depravity as he begins to enjoy the carnage he inflicts. This seems to be what the knowledge does, slowly driving people over the edge. That is what makes this version of events so chilling is this man went from an average sailor to someone whose very sanity has melted away and caused him to commit horrific acts.

While this story did start off a little slow, once the sailors clash with the natives, the story really kicks into high gear. The fighting in this story is savage and features some of the bloodiest scenes in the novel. I mean, there is literally a scene where Native American warriors repel down a ridge on the entrails of their enemies! Bradshaw also uses military strategy to help bring these battles to life.

Kolb’s Farm, Cobb County, Georgia Civil War 1864

This is the story of a Confederate soldier named Rusty, who is wounded in a horrific battle at Kolb’s Farm that sees most of his friends and fellow soldiers torn to shreds. As he lies injured on the battlefield, he can’t help but think of the memories of his childhood spending time on the Chattahoochee River. This section is fairly short, Bradshaw captures them perfectly with vivid descriptions that capture a sort of tranquility that shows that he is capable of more than just blood, guts, and destruction (though he his damn good at portraying that stuff too!)

As he lies there, Union soldiers look for survivors and make sure everyone is dead. Just when Rusty fears he may be discovered, the soldiers take off after hearing sounds of another fight in the distance, sparing Rusty’s life at the last-minute. Rusty is saved by a mysterious stranger in a robe. He is taken to a basement in a nearby church and finds that there is a whole group of these people who wear robes made out of a coarse fabric, almost like a burlap sack. He falls in love with a woman named Molly who is the one that primarily takes care of him. While he is recuperating, Molly explains that she belongs to the Church of the Saviour’s Star. The gold thread and the fact that there are hexagrams embroidered on their robes, makes me think they are somehow connected to the Incan priests at the beginning of the story.

However, as Rusty is recovering, he begins to have his suspicions about the group and their motives. Especially when the other patients who were all around him go missing. When Rusty finally uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

Rusty is one of my favorite characters in the novel, probably right after Pastor Gimball (who we will get to later). There is a moment when facing imminent death, Rusty fights back and displays an incredible amount of bravery. He has been through hell since the opening pages of this story and no matter how bad things get, he never stops fighting.

One thing that I didn’t initially pick up on but I did with this story is that Bradshaw uses real places and events as the backdrop for his stories. He manages to put his own unique spin on them with the mythology he has created around the star-dust and other aspects of the Hexagram universe. I was also impressed with his ability to perfectly capture the bloody and brutal violence of the Civil War.

The Clarence Pub, corner of Great Scotland Yard and Whitehall, London, United Kingdom 1888 

I have always had a fascination with the Jack The Ripper case, so this was a story that caught my attention instantly.

This story opens with an investigator named Norton who was assigned to the Jack The Ripper Case meeting a colleague at a local bar. Norton gives Swanson a bit of info that not many other investigators have figured out. Norton thinks that the killer has been killing for over twenty years, but only recently has the killer slipped up leading him to attract police attention. Norton also claims to know the identity of the killer, but he insists that to get the information, Swanson must listen to his recounting of his investigation.

Norton earned a legendary reputation after solving the huge Tower Hill case, but left the big city for a quieter life in Salisbury, Wiltshire. That all changed in April of 1885 as he was handed a murder case. A local worker happened upon an open stables and when he went to check on what was going on, the killer burst past him. Inside were seven bodies, all of which were missing their internal organs. The fact that there were that many victims led Norton to believe that there was more than one perpetrator. As Norton begins to unravel the web of secrets regarding the murders, he makes a startling discovery that has ramifications not just for his career, but his life.

I loved the characterization of this story. The way Bradshaw handles the tense history between Swanson and Norton is excellent. In between Norton’s recounting of the case, we learn bits and pieces about their professional relationship. Swanson was a drunk who almost screwed up the Tower Hill case and this information plays a vital part in how Norton tells his story. I was also impressed that despite the contained nature of this story – two investigators talking in a bar and going over memories of a shared case – that this was one of the most gripping stories in the collection, which is a testament to Bradshaw’s writing.

Also, this story may be the one that had the most cringe worthy scenes for me. The part where Norton finds some of the victims will absolutely make your stomach churn!

Gimbaltown, New Providence, Bahamas December 8, 1981 

This story was another one of my favorites from Hexagram. Pastor Gimbal is the leader of Gimbaltown and he rules the community with an iron first. He is wired to notice any slight deviation from his plans and even something as minor as buying a generic brand of soda is liable to have deadly consequences. On the eve of Gimbaltown’s biggest moment, Gimbal is even more unhinged than usual. As events and bodies keep piling up, Gimbal continues to lose control and leads to a confrontation that lives on in infamy.

Bradshaw does an incredible job with the characterization in this one, particularly with the larger than life Pastor Gimbal. While he is definitely a terrifying, awful person, he is one of the most memorable characters in Hexagram.  He is capable of extreme violence  but he also comes up with some fairly humorous jokes. While some of them did get me to laugh, they only ramp up the tension because it contrasts just how detached he is from the violence he commits. The dialogue  throughout this story is fantastic, pitch-perfect and  totally believable. There is obvious nods to Jonestown in this one, yet again Bradshaw is able to put his own spin on it by introducing the star powder.

Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

This section follows two twin sisters Esther and Stella, who attempt to carry out the ritual that started centuries ago and somehow ends up in their home. Esther is a gifted artist and she uses those skills in her job at the local funeral home to make bodies look alive. While Esther takes pride in her work, she has an ulterior motive for working at the funeral home. It isn’t long until Esther and Stella feel pressured to speed up their plans and they go from under the radar to being super stressed out and facing trouble at every turn. As the pressure begins to mount, Esther and Stella are faced with a choice that could decide the fate of mankind. What choice will they make?

Esther and Stella are as close as most twins are, but they definitely have a tendency to bicker with each other. The sisters share a dark secret and the scenes portraying their relationship are great for a variety of reasons. Despite their real jobs, they seem to be relatively well-adjusted. However, as they are working they talk about it nonchalantly with a detachment that left me wondering how long their lives have been like that. There is also a cool twist that I honestly suspected, but the way it was handled helps to this final installment in Hexagram and it really helps the collection finish strong.

Overall Thoughts on Hexagram

One of the things I liked about Hexagram was the style choices Bradshaw made through out in regards to telling the story and formatting. Since each story has a distinct cast of characters, setting and overall tone, it is important that they are differentiated and Bradshaw does an excellent job in that regard. It is hard to describe, but if you read books from the 19th century or early 20th century, you will notice they have a distinct tone that is different from modern writing. The stories that take place in earlier  time periods such as the Ripper story or the story of the man whose crew shipwrecked, Bradshaw is able to perfectly capture the cadence of that style of writing and it really helps strengthen the stories and book as a whole. I also like the various modes of storytelling he utilizes. There are stories that are set up in a traditional format but then there is a story that takes the form of a confessional, a story largely between two characters and utilizing flashbacks, and a story that uses bits and pieces of police documentation.

I also really enjoyed the way Bradshaw was able to connect all the stories together. I will be honest, when I first started reading Hexagram, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I thought the connecting thread would fall apart and that the novel would come across as feeling disjointed. However, I think Bradshaw does a great job connecting all of the stories without having to shoehorn in summaries or explanations to make it work. I don’t want to point out all the little connection pieces, but I thought it was brilliant how Bradshaw continued to link all of the stories together. They all share a common narrative thread (the star-dust and a few other surprises) but there are also little nods to previous stories that are littered throughout Hexagram almost like Easter Eggs.

There are some unanswered questions that swirl around Hexagram, but they feel more like deliberate choices than glaring omissions. Talking about them too much would spoil the novel, but let’s just say I would love to find out more about how the knowledge is passed on through the generations and if there is something supernatural at work behind its constant presence. There are enough hints that I was able to form my own opinion and back story in my head, but I can’t help but think there could be a really good story in there somewhere!

Although I had some reservations about Hexagram at the beginning, I am really glad I kept reading because I was rewarded with a richly layered story that was fresh and unique. I am sure Hexagram will appeal to fans of horror and other speculative fiction genres. If you like copious amounts of blood and guts in your horror, you definitely won’t be disappointed with some of the stories in Hexagram. This may have been my first exposure to Duncan Bradshaw’s works, but I am sure it won’t be my last!

Rating: 4/5 

LINKS

Duncan P. Bradshaw’s Official Website

Sinister Horror Company’s Official Website

Purchase Hexagram: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sinister Horror Company, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Hexagram v2 tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Hexagram!- #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram Synopsis

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.

Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed

Praise for Hexagram

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

Praise for Duncan Bradshaw’s writing

“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews

“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene

“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Duncan Bradshaw Biography

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Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.

Why not pop over to his websitegive him a like over on Facebook, or read his ravings on his blog.

Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?

If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

consequences

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Self-Published

Length: 245 Pages

Release Date: April 11, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Consequences

John Quick’s Consequences is based on a real-life serial killer legend from his hometown so that coupled with the synopsis for this one had me intrigued and I jumped at the chance to join this tour! Everyone has some sort of story or urban legend from when they were growing up, so it was a real treat to see an author take that inspiration and bring it to life in a novel.

John Quick’s Consequences opens with a bang, detailing a horrific crime in 1971 at the Grayson family home on the outskirts of town, near the local airbase. Judy Grayson is on the way home late from a party, worrying about how her dad is going to react after he learns she defied his wishes. She arrives home to find all the lights off in the home and the front door open, something that almost never happens. As she begins to explore the eerie darkness that has taken over the home, she gets a sense that something is not right. Everything seems fairly normal until she finds a large pool of blood. She checks all the rooms of the house before noticing the back door was open. Once she goes out there, she sees something so terrifying and brutal that it alters her life and leaves a lasting mark on the town forever.

Over 40 year’s later we are introduced to a group of teenagers, seven friends who are getting ready to graduate and want to plan one last big blowout before they all go their separate ways. The first location for the party is at Jacob’s  lake-house they planned on fell through, so Austin and Jacob come up with the bright idea to sneak out to “Crazy Freddy’s” house and have their blowout there instead. They figure this would be the perfect place to hold the party since the legends surrounding the house  would not only allow them to impress the girls, but ensures that they will have the place all to their selves. However, once they get out there, it is obvious someone or something is out there watching them. An innocent disagreement between two of the friends sparks a chain of tragic events that will forever alter the lives of those teenagers and place them in the crosshairs of a sadistic killer that will stop at nothing to get his revenge.

One of the things that I really loved about Consequences was that it was written in a style that is reminiscent of vintage slasher films. If there is one thing I love as much as horror literature, it is a good horror movie. Between the  brutal opening scene that sets the tone for the novel and the killer begins picking off victims one by one, Quick does a great job capturing the style of vintage slasher films. There is also some great tension because after their initial confrontation, the killer obviously gets away and they are left wondering if he is coming back for them. That brings up a level of psychological torment that has them constantly looking over their shoulder and it also serves as a catalyst for the growth of the characters.

The characterization in this novel is also very well done. Christopher, one of the main characters of the novel, is your average teenager, never really getting into any trouble and he pines after his childhood friend Hannah, who he has been friends with since the 2nd grade. Since she’s moving to California, this summer is Christopher’s last chance to say something to her. Quick nails their complex relationship perfectly, especially early on when they are still trying to figure their relationship out. Anyone who has ever fallen for a close friend, can definitely relate to these scenes of self-doubt and mixed messages. Even as their relationship begins to change and grow throughout the novel, it happens organically and is totally believable, never once feeling forced or overly cheesy.

I also liked Special Agent Jack Cochran who works for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He struck me as being genuine and a really good investigator. Though I couldn’t help but feel bad for him at times because Chris and his friends put him through hell. I mean the poor guy is just trying to do his job and they really cause him some headaches! All kidding aside, I loved their interactions together and I only wish there was more of him in the middle parts of the book.

While Quick does a great job with all of his characters, I thought Alexis had the best arc and she was by far my favorite character. At the beginning of the novel she’s portrayed as being an outsider with low self-esteem that is looked down on by everyone. It isn’t until an honest moment with Tyler that she begins to think that maybe people are wrong about her and she can do whatever she wants, regardless of people’s impressions about her.  As the novel progresses – aside from a short period where she was consumed with grief – Alexis begins stands up for herself and exhibits more strength than any of the other characters combined. She takes charge of the group when they realize the killer is targeting them and without her masterful internet sleuthing skills, they wouldn’t have stood a chance in their quest for answers. Simply put, Alexis morphs into a complete badass!

Quick’s killer in Consequences is definitely a force to be reckoned with and unleashes tortures so vicious and horrific, it will definitely make you squirm! There is a scene at a lake house part way through the novel and what he does to the poor person he snares in his trap was scary as hell and one of the sickest things I have read in a long time. I don’t want to give away too much about this killer’s methods or his history, but Quick makes him more interesting than your run-of-the-mill horror psycho. He has a code that he follows, or at least tries to follow. Although he is obviously deranged, he possesses intelligence that allows him to blend in as we see him cruise past checkpoints without a problem and even feels comfortable talking to the officers. He also has incredible patience, often waiting in the same spot for hours while tracking the characters. I liked that he was introduced early on and that his identity was left a mystery for a while, but you learn very quickly the sort of violence he is capable of and that he is definitely not someone you want to cross.

The only issue I had was with some of the backstory for this character. Once his identity is revealed and you learn more about him, it is easy to see why he wants to hurt Chris and his friends. However, there are still a lot of questions that make his thought process unclear. He consistently mentions “Luck” being on his side, by where did this fascination come about? Also, without spoiling his identity, there is little mention of what made him first become a killer. There are some clues, but it would have been nice to get just a little more insight into his background to see what turned him into a killer.

The dialogue in this story is fantastic. It really rings true for the most part, especially when you read some of the opening lines of the father figure or “Crazy Freddy” as he is affectionately known. Judy recalls him saying to “close the damn door” and that she wasn’t “raised in a goddamned barn”. Lines like that give you a sense of what this man is like and you can practically hear his voice in your head. There are also a few more graphic ones that indicate he’s abusive and controlling. Quick does a great job of bringing this character to life with little moments and believable conversations, especially when the friends all gather around to talk about their hopes and dreams.

Quick’s debut novel is a really fun summer read that will appeal to any horror fan, but particularly those who enjoy a good slasher story. This book stands out on its own, but as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think of Kristopher Rufty’s Desolation, so if you enjoyed that I think you will love Consequences. Consequences hints at a very bright future for Quick, who has already signed to Sinister Grin Press for his follow-up novel. One of my favorite things about covering dark fiction is discovering new authors, so I am glad I was invited to join this blog tour. Quick is a talented new author and I think the wait for his follow-up will be unbearable!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

John Quick’s Official Website

Purchase Consequences: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Books-A-Million, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Consequences tour graphic v2

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Consequences!- #Consequences #summerofterror #crazyfreddy

Consequences Synopsis

It was a summer of blood and terror…

For seven friends, graduation night was supposed to be a time to celebrate the end of their high school careers and the start of their real lives.

But when an accident while partying at the local haunted house results in tragedy, they find themselves being hunted by a maniac for whom the stakes are decidedly personal.

Thirty years ago, Crazy Freddy hung his family up with barbed wire and skinned them alive. Now, the survivors can only hope for such a kindness as they are forced to accept that for everything they do, there will be CONSEQUENCES.

Praise for Consequences

“The character work here is pretty impressive, particularly for a first-time novelist.” – Michael Hicks, Author of Let Go

John Quick takes you inside the mind of a psycho path in this thriller. I read it in only two sittings because the pacing kept me turning the pages. Very well written, I enjoyed the dialogue very much, especially the young people being hunted by the killer. It felt believable and well developed.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of Mayan Blue

John Quick Biography

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John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world.

 His debut novel, Consequences is available now as a paperback or digital eBook. Watch for his next novel to come from Sinister Grin Press in 2017. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and three dogs that think they’re kids.

 When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at: http://johnquickauthor.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you like to feature?

If you would like to review Consequences or feature John with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com .

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press

Length: 220 Pages

Release Date: June 24, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Stolen Away

My first introduction to Kristin Dearborn’s work was her DarkFuse novella Woman In White from earlier this year. I was blown away by that story which was the perfect mix of atmospheric tension and plenty of gruesome scenes that would appeal to just about any horror fan. In addition to that, I loved how Dearborn was able to take a familiar and well-known legend and morph it into something unique. After I read Woman In White I knew I had to read more of her work, so I was excited to dive into Stolen Away which is a tale of demonic evil and a mother’s fight to protect her children at all costs.

Stolen Away opens strongly with a single line that is a nightmarish scenario for any parent, “The baby was gone”. That is the first thought that pops into Trisha Callahan’s mind after waking up in the sweltering heat of her apartment. No matter how many times she tells herself she was crazy and that it was impossible, she just couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that something isn’t right. As she gathers her bearings, she hears her daughter Kourtney’s screams piercing the heavy air of the apartment. After a few moments of frantically searching for a way to open the locked door of Kourtney and Braydens room, Trisha finally busts into the room and sees a sight that would make any parent’s heart drop – an empty crib. After finally calming her daughter down, Trisha gets her to tell her what happened and what she says causes Trisha’s world to fall apart – a monster took him.

Not knowing what to do after Trisha descends into a haze of confusion, Kourtney calls her father, Joel Preston. He heads over to find out what happened pissed because of how is ex is acting and worried about the two mobsters staking out his house. When he arrives, it is obvious that there is a lot of painful memories between them. Although they fight, Joel calms down long enough to help take care of Trisha and get her to tell him what happened. As they are debating what to do, a deranged man shows up in their doorway with a gun and makes ominous mention of demons and the fact that Brayden is missing. Before they can ask him any questions as to how he knows about Brayden, he kills himself in front of them. After this horrific incident, Joel and Trisha decide they have no choice but to hit the road to avoid explaining their impossible story to police officers and to search for answers regarding Brayden.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they have to track down a demon in order to rescue Brayden, Joel’s own past rears its ugly head as mobsters Andretti and Barlow attempt to blackmail them if they don’t get the $1 million Joel owes them. After recounting the story of Brayden’s birth to Joel, they try to track down people who may have been there that night. They quickly realize that Trisha isn’t DEMON’s first victim and probably won’t be his last. As they put the pieces of the puzzle together and get closer to the truth, they team up with some interesting characters that have ties to DEMON’s world and journey into the jaws of hell to try to rescue Brayden and stop DEMON once and for all.

There are a lot of things I love about Stolen Away, but what impressed me the most about this book was the incredible characterization. Dearborn utilizes flashbacks from both Joel and Trisha’s lives throughout the story to demonstrate the hardship they have had to endure so far in their life and their struggle to better their lives. When the crazed gun man shoots himself in Trisha’s apartment, we learn that Trisha had seen death before when he best friend OD’d when she was just 15-years-old. Joel is a former dealer and hell, one memory Trisha has is of Joel bring a half-pound of meth home. What I loved about this story and Dearborn’s portrayal about these characters is that they are very real. A lot of times, the heroes or main character of a novel often seem fairly squeaky clean, but it is clear that both Joel and Trisha have a lot of baggage in their past and decisions they are not proud of. However, throughout the course of the novel we get to watch them grow from this period of hardship as they bond over trying to rescue Brayden and attempt to get their lives back on track even as chaos swirls around them.

While the characterization is strongest for the main characters Trisha and Joel, Dearborn also rounds out the cast of Stolen Away with some pretty interesting minor characters as well. There is the violent mob enforcer Barlow, who has the crazy idea that he will be able to wrangle a demon and make it bend to his will. My favorite though would have to be Tabatha, who works in an occult store and has special skills and knowledge that she uses to help Trisha and Joel. She has a vast knowledge of the occult and is a total badass that can see right through DEMON’s bullshit.

One of the things that I liked was that even though Joel seems to accept Trisha’s explanation of a demon coming to collect her son without question, their pasts add a wrinkle of tension to the story when it comes to the characters around them. Sure, in most horror novels that involve demons or some other supernatural entity, it often takes the characters a large portion of the novel to convince others that what is happening is real. But by giving the two main characters checkered pasts – a history of drug use and arrests – it helps drive the narrative. Joel and Trisha mostly rely on each other and only get help from people who had similar experiences. Who would listen to such an outlandish story from two people who have a troubled history and in Joel’s case a record? Had an encounter with DEMON not happened right before her very eyes, I doubt Joel’s mom would have believed their story.

Dearborn puts an original, frightening spin on the demon story while still maintaining traditional possession themes. Stolen Away is unlike any other story I have read because it’s not simply a possession story, but something far more sinister in my opinion. There is a lot of familiar demon characteristics that come into play especially when they meet Sydeny, a woman who offers her assistance in the battle against DEMON. She tells them that normal bullets wont work and the only way to hurt him is through iron bullets and salt. She also gives them a theory about the demon children and how Brayden could possibly grow up if they get him back. There is also the sacrifices and crossroads aspect of demon lore woven into the story as well.

Also, Dearborn nails some really great and chilling possession scenes in this book. The first time that Trisha’s body is taken over by DEMON, that whole sequence is just incredible. While it definitely has the hallmarks of classics like The Exorcist, there is enough of Dearborn’s own originality and tiny details there that makes the scenes really pop. I don’t want to spoil too much of it because coming across these scenes is half the fun of reading Stolen Away, but during the exorcism there is a scene that utilizes Trisha’s tattoos that I thought was brilliant. There is also some scary creature’s other than DEMON at work. Let’s just say that I will never look at retriever’s the same way again after reading Stolen Away! 

While Stolen Away is a pretty dark story, there are moments of humor that just adds to the enjoyment of the novel and make Joel and Trisha even more realistic characters. When they learn that salt weakens DEMON, they run into a 7-11 and buy all the salt in the store. Joel then ponders if it has to be iodized or if it had to be rock salt. That sort of obliviousness and silly questions is how most normal people would react to a situation the defies everything they know about the world and their own personal beliefs.

There are only a few moments in this novel that didn’t really work for me. There is an interlude focusing on Trisha’s friend Cherry that details the aftermath her interaction with Demon. I liked the section by itself and it is an essential component to the story because we see the impact DEMON has on these women’s lives. However, we go a long period without seeing Cherry again, so it sort of disrupts the flow of the story a little. I did like the juxtaposition between Cherry and Trisha though in how they handled the situation, because Trisha could have easily taken the same path. The mob story line seemed like a cool addition to the story and an added threat for Trisha and Joel to deal with, but it kind of fizzles out as the novel progresses. Barlow does make an important appearance in the novel’s second act, he also has a long absence like Cherry and seems like a weird addition to the story at that point.

Despite those minor issues, I still think Stolen Away is a brilliant novel and will definitely rank high on my “Best of” list at the end of the year. Woman In White was my introduction to Dearborn’s work and while I love that novella, I think Stolen Away is even better. I am a huge fan of Dearborn’s work and after reading these two awesome books I am kicking myself for not being aware of her stuff sooner. I highly recommend Stolen Away and I can’t wait to see what sort of dark stories she unleashes next!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Kristin Dearborn’s Official Website

Raw Dog Screaming Press’ Official Website

Purchase Stolen Away: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Raw Dog Screaming Press, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Stolen Away tour graphic (3)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Stolen Away!-  #StolenAway #DEMON #KristinDearborn

Stolen Away Synopsis

Trisha will admit she’s made a few mistakes in her life but that checkered past is behind her. She loves her kids, even if it’s tough being a single mom. But her loyalties are put to the test when her infant son disappears in the middle of the night, and his big sister says a monster took him.

Now Trisha has to face the full truth behind the one-night-stand that produced Brayden in all its scaly torridness – Brayden’s father wasn’t human and isn’t interested in sharing custody. However, even though DEMON has pulled this stunt many times before, he made a mistake when he chose Trisha. The one thing she won’t do is give up her son without a fight. Along with her ex-boyfriend, Joel, Trisha is dragged back into the seedy underworld in a desperate fight to reclaim her son, only this time she’s got a lot more to lose.

About the cover

The cover was created by Italian artist Daniele Serra. He is a winner of the British Fantasy Award and has worked with companies such as DC Comics, Image Comics, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales Magazine and PS Publishing. Recently his work was featured as interior art in a scene of Stephen King’s The Cell, with Samuel Jackson looking it over. Visit his web site to see more of his art: http://www.multigrade.it

Praise for Kristin Dearbon

“In Stolen Away, Kristin Dearborn writes with a confidence and ferocity that demands you keep turning pages. Where lesser writers would flinch and look away, Dearborn tells the tale the way it should be, with cruelty and fascination for both her characters and the story. Kristin Dearborn isn’t just a writer to watch, she’s a writer to watch out for. If she’s swinging, you might want to duck, because she hits hard!—Bracken MacLeod, author of Mountain and Stranded

“Kristin Dearborn’s fast-paced horror thriller, Stolen Away, will possess readers as they strap in for a demonic thrill ride of sin and redemption.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, author of An Exorcism of Angels

“Gripping nonstop suspense and unsettling horror that blazes the pages from start to finish. You’ll swear Stolen Away was written by a seasoned veteran of best-selling novels. Expect to want more after reading the second novel by Kristin Dearborn, an author whose work will shoot her straight to the top of reading lists.”—Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist

“Kristin Dearborn catapults readers into an intricately layered world that is bleak and terrifying but never so damned as to be without hope or redemption.  If the devil, so to speak, is in the details, then this book raises hell, exploring not just demons internal as well as external, but also all the beautiful, heart-wrenching, contradictorily complex, powerful little things that define human experience. This book earns a prominent place of the bookshelf of any fan of demonic fiction.” —Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower trilogy and Chills

“Horror born straight from a nor’easter, Dearborn’s Woman in White is a great read for a winter night—with a monster I’ll never forget.” Christopher Irvin, author of Federales and Burn Cards

“Kristin Dearborn’s Woman in White is a rip-roaring monster tale with sharp-eyed characterization and something to say about the power dynamics between men and woman. Thought-provoking and entertaining as hell!” Tim Waggoner, author of Eat the Night

“Great stuff! Suspenseful, quickly paced, unpredictable and wonderfully evil tale. Kristin Dearborn’s best yet!” Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Dearborn has a wonderful sense of the macabre, along with the ability to balance the spookier aspects of her work with well-rendered, solid characterizations…Sacrifice Island is a blazing fast read, with engaging characters and a compelling narrative.” The Maine Edge

Sacrifice Island is a fresh and interesting take on a tried and true horror setup.” Examiner

Kristin Dearborn Biography

kristin dearborn

If it screams, squelches, or bleeds, Kristin Dearborn has probably written about it. Kristin has written books such as Sacrifice Island (DarkFuse), Trinity (DarkFuse), and had fiction published in several magazines and anthologies. Stolen Away was recently a limited edition offered from Thunderstorm Books, which sold out.

She revels in comments like, “But you look so normal…how do you come up with that stuff?” A life-long New Englander, she aspires to the footsteps of the local masters, Messrs. King and Lovecraft. When not writing or rotting her brain with cheesy horror flicks (preferably creature features!) she can be found scaling rock cliffs or zipping around Vermont on a motorcycle, or gallivanting around the globe. Kristin’s latest DarkFuse release is Woman in White.

Find more about Kristin online at kristindearborn.com or Facebook.

Want to Feature Kristin Dearborn?

If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Kristin Dearborn, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media: hookofabook@hotmail.com.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Alien Agenda Publishing

Length: 44 Pages

Release Date: July 16, 2016

Ever since Glenn Rolfe sent me a copy of his debut novel The Haunted Halls, I have been a huge fan of his work. It has been an awesome following Glenn’s career and seeing him develop into one of the best and most entertaining horror writers out there today. Not only is he a talented author, but he is a super nice guy and a huge promoter of the horror community. Trying to choose a favorite work of Glenn’s is nearly impossible because of the versatility he has displayed thus far in his career, and there is something different I love in each of his works.

Glenn’s last two releases – the full-length Blood and Rain and this year’s novella Things We Fear – were some of my favorite horror reads and I know Things We Fear will be on my “Best of” list at the end of the year. After finishing Things We Fear in March, I thought for sure I was going to have a long and agonizing wait for the release of his upcoming Chasing Ghosts. So it was an unexpected treat when Rolfe announced the release of Out of Range, a collection of three short stories that revolve around aliens. If you are a longtime reader of this blog, then you know I have a love/hate relationship with aliens, so this was a book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on!

Out of Range opens with a pretty cool foreword from fellow horror author Hunter Shea. It talks about all the things that fascinate people about aliens, UFOs and the unknown even though the prevailing thought is that aliens would destroy us in seconds flat. Despite the fact that aliens scare the hell out of me, I am still fascinated about talking about them and the possibilities their existence poses. While some may not enjoy the foreword, I thought that it set the mood for this collection perfectly and really connected with me as a fellow fan of all things alien. As I was reading, it definitely helped build my excitement to see what sort of extraterrestrial horror Rolfe has conjured up for this collection. The passion of that foreword and the fact that it is evident throughout these three stories is what made this such a blast for me to read.

Out of Range kicks off with Not of this World a terrifying story that channels the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and mixes in a dash of Alien. Author Jonathan and his wife are expecting their first child and it should be the most joyous moment of their lives, but something is not right. Despite the fact that her husband told her that her nightmares were just a byproduct of her nervousness over the pregnancy, Gina is convinced that there really is something wrong with the baby. While Jonathan is supportive of her, the tension of her fears is beginning to put a strain on their marriage. The baby’s due date comes and goes and that’s when the movements that were unlike anything she expected began to happen. Jonathan was away at Cincinnati to sell books at a horror convention and Gina is convinced that she is in grave danger.

Jonathan is trying to call his wife from the convention and she doesn’t answer, though she always normally does. He frantically tries every number he can think of with no luck, so he decides to skip out on the convention early and races home to be with his wife. When Jonathan arrives home, he witnesses a horror beyond his imagination and is in a race for not just his survival, but the survival of everyone in his community and possibly the world.

This was the perfect choice to start off the collection as it is full of adrenaline-pumping scenes and the alien in this story is by far the most frightening creature in the collection. I don’t want to give too much away, but the scenes of the aliens arrival were definitely pretty creepy and definitely had me on the edge of my seat. It’s arrival is gruesome and violent and channels the blood-soaked characteristics of The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain. The descriptions are simple, yet devastatingly effective: “Shredding flesh, popping and ripping ligaments…” Out of the three stories, I would say this one is definitely the most frightening just in terms of the alien’s abilities and carnage it unleashes in such a short time span. It is a devastating and heartbreaking piece because the alien ruins the lives of the people it comes across and there are some truly bleak moments that really stuck with me about this story.

The Astronauts is a story I was honored to host on The Horror Bookshelf last year for a few weeks and I am glad to see it get a wider release in this collection. The story revolves around the mystery of what the narrator is hiding following the arrival of a mysterious race of beings known as The Astronauts on Earth.  The Astronauts try to prohibit any mention of the past or memories and employ a series of barbaric tortures to ensure compliance to their demands. The narrator, along with the other survivors. are all huddled up in squalor and filth. It used to depress them, but they have come to reluctantly accept their situation. Despite their shared predicament, he doesn’t trust any of them with his secret. The secret he is hiding is something that he feels would cause The Astronauts to kill him, so secrecy is key. However, The Astronauts possess formidable powers and keeping that secret will prove to be an almost impossible task.

The Astronauts are sort of a half way point between the other stories in terms of the level of danger they pose to the characters. The being in the first story is driven by an animalistic rage and hatred. The Astronauts of this story are cold and brutal, but they have a much more human-like intelligence. They band together in groups and formulate plans. What I loved about this story was that despite the bleak surroundings and his knowledge of what these beings are capable of, the narrator remains defiant.

While I enjoyed all of these stories for different reasons, the titular story of this collection is definitely my favorite. The aliens in this story announced their arrival by cutting the Internet. They only broadcast a single message to announce their presence and it was viewed on devices all across the globe. They only utter three sentences “Your world is not yours. We gave it life as we gave you. We are coming home.” After that single message, everything went silent and people are just sitting around waiting for them to return. The story views the invasion through the eyes of a single family, particularly the narrator Nick. He is staying with his sister Lindsay and attempting to help her raise her kids Jack and Wendi. His 16-year-old niece Wendi makes a discovery that sends chills down Nick’s spine and makes him fear the worst when she tells him what she has found.

This story is more subtle in its set-up. It is little moments – hisses in radio static, the loss of instant communication the Internet offers – that builds a sense of dread. Then there is the fact that the aliens delay their arrival. They make their creepy announcement and then there is nothing. Life carries on as usual for the most part and there is something even more ominous about that then if these beings had descended upon Earth blowing up everything in sight. That sense of an unknown future really gives you the chills and allows your imagination to run wild.

Part of the reason this one gets the nod as my favorite is that it incorporates some of the things that both fascinate and terrify me about aliens and there are some really memorable scenes that I think alien fans will really enjoy. Also, this story it has a powerful emotional core that adds a great layer to the story.

Out of Range is a brisk read at only 44 pages, but not a moment is wasted by Rolfe, who grabs the reader’s attention right from the beginning. I remember after I tore through this book on release day thinking about how each one of these stories would have made for a fantastic full-length novel. These stories work as stand alone stories and probably will stay that way, but I can’t help but wish for a continuation of the story Out of Range. If you are a fan of Glenn’s terrific novella Boom Town or just have a fascination with aliens, this is a collection you definitely want to add to your shelf. Out of Range is a quick, fun summer read that has gotten me excited not just for Chasing Ghosts, but also the sequel to Boom Town that is currently in the works!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Glenn Rolfe’s Official Website

Purchase Out of Range: Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK) 

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Mirror Matter Press

Length: 120 Pages

Release Date: June 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for Stone Work

In Roid Rage, readers are introduced to Stone, a mercenary for hire who works for anyone that pays, regardless of how messy or violent the job may be and consequences be damned. This time he is working for a sleazy drug lord named Greg Warden. Greg is a notorious in his own right for his ability to escape jail time despite his various shady dealings around The City. Greg doesn’t need Stone’s help personally, but hires him to help out his son, Bobby. Bobby seemed to lack the drive and knowledge to take on a big role in the family business despite his father’s best efforts. However, Bobby has recently shown more promise and launched his own little enterprise to take advantage of the gym next store. Problem is, a thief has been stealing Bobby’s supply and despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to catch the culprit. So, Greg decides to step in and he hires Stone to take care of the problem for his son behind his back. Despite his newfound entrepreneurial spirit, Greg simply doesn’t trust his son to get the job done.

Stone enlists the help of Megan, his partner in crime, to help guide him through the logistics of the operation. Megan is in her mid-twenties and is a super intelligent hacker that has a bit more of an idealistic world view than Stone, but is still tough as nails. She helps Stone do all of the recon and handles the tech aspects of the Warden job that Stone has no idea how to do. After a brief recap of the mission, Megan gives Stone the all-clear to enter the store.

Once Stone is inside, he realizes his mission is shot to hell before it has even started. Something has happened to Bobby Warden and as Stone’s mind races to think of a way to salvage this job, he stumbles across an unimaginable horror and learns the real reason why Bobby’s vials of steroids were going missing.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the contents of the story, but Stabile does a great job of mashing up neo-noir elements with some awesome, classic science-fiction aspects. There are some fantastic transformation scenes throughout the entire second half of the story and I had a blast reading about all of the bizarre antagonists Stabile came up with for this story. There is also some truly gruesome moments in here that have an awesome B-movie quality, and I mean that in the best way possible! Stabile creates a tense scenario where it seems like Stone and his companions are completely screwed and keeps the action going until the bitter end. This was a perfect introduction into Stone and Megan’s world!

Plumb, Inc.

Stone is hurting for money and is offered a difficult job from a man named James Kidwell with the ominous warning, “You’re not the first man I’ve sent in there.” Stone isn’t scared of death – a fact that we learn earlier in Stone Work – and the warning sails over his head when he thinks about the two hundred grand pay-day promised to him upon completion. When Stone inquires about what happened to the others, Kidwell is honest with him and explains that the other P.I.s that were sent into do the job vanish without a trace. Despite months of recon work, Kidwell is unable to learn just what it is Plumb, Inc. actually does. Kidwell turns to Stone for help because he fears he is next on the company’s hit list after investigating the company for months following allegations they were responsible for the death of his niece.

He hires Stone to infiltrate the building in an attempt to destroy all of their records and give him time to disappear before they catch him. Stone meets up with Megan later in the evening at a local diner to discuss the job and he learns is also the only place that really gives Megan any problems from a hacking perspective. She tries to hack into their servers remotely and finds it is completely guarded, so Stone has to download the virus directly to their server. The change in plan sets Stone on edge and he gets a bad feeling about the job. After laying out their plan, Stone heads to the building and meets a hysterical man outside the building who offers him one final hair-chilling warning before he enters the building – “Don’t go in there. No one goes in there at night. Don’t you know that?”

Stone enters the building and the job sees way to easy at first for the large payday he was promised, but that quickly changes as he navigates the seemingly desolate building. He begins seeing things that defy earthly explanation and as he ventures further into depths of Plumb, Inc. headquarters, he learns the horrifying truth behind the building and the people who run it.

I loved the creation of Plumb, Inc. and the air of mystery surrounding it is what drives this story for me. There are also various rumors that swirl around the complex with conspiracy theories ranging from you standard shadowy, government weapons lab all the way to the building serving as a gateway to Hell. The truth behind Plumb, Inc. is definitely something I didn’t expect! At first I thought it was going to be a little too similar to ‘Roid Rage, but there is a whole host of weird stuff going on inside the walls of the Plumb, Inc. building that helps it stand out. This story kind of reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone crossed with Cabin in the Woods and was probably my favorite of the stories from a content perspective.

I also liked that this story took part largely in the contained setting of the Plumb, Inc. building. When you consider all of the crazy rumors around the building and how they get your brain working overtime on what the truth is, it really ratchets up the suspense and makes the big reveal that much more shocking. I mean seriously, who would expect all of that to be housed in one nondescript office building?

Godless City opens with a conversation between Megan and Stone about why Stone recently turned down a job despite the fact that his money was low. If there is one thing I have learned about Stone and his past exploits, is that this job must have been pretty crazy for Stone to say no! As Megan tries to get Stone to open up, a mysterious small man named Keagan knocks furiously on the door and storms into Stone’s apartment with a book that he claims will change the world. The book is supposedly definitive proof regarding an aspect of civilization in The City and could shatter the society built up after the Final War.

Despite his best judgement and the fact that the book was stolen from Mayor Nelson himself, Stone finds himself listening to Keagan’s pleas for help and is starting to succumb to the allure of another large payday. Stone finally agrees to take on the job of delivering the book to one of Keagan’s contacts in the newspaper business. After agreeing to the job, Stone and Megan quickly find themselves the new target for Mayor Nelson’s sadistic killers known as the Devil Dogs. To make matters worse, they must also navigate the seedy darkness of The Alleys and keep the book out of the hands of a deadly religious cult.

I think Godless City is the strongest story in Stone Work when it comes to the world-building that goes into The City and its belief systems. This is also the story where Stabile sort of pokes at the weird alternate history that is used as a central building block of Stone Work. We also learn a bit more about Stone’s history and his involvement with shady gang leaders and other black market operators as they navigate The Alleys. There is also some really cool scenes that delve into the futuristic aspects of the book.  People have chips that give away their location and then there is the pretty cool weapon known as the “blunder ball”. The blunder ball is essentially the nastiest weapon available in The City and vaporizes a person and all of the energy that makes up their bodies, preventing them from reaching the afterlife.

I loved the relationship between Stone and Megan throughout the course of Stone Work. They seem like two polar opposites and yet they work oddly well together. Megan is a bit of an idealist, bursting with personality and Stone is a bit more pragmatic and nihilistic. Megan hates when Stone tries to relay details about his job that involve violence whereas Stone has a complete detachment about it. They also banter back and forth quite a bit and Megan is able to trade barbs with Stone just as well as he throws them.

I also loved Stone’s back story. Stones face is ruined from his past on the Wall and he frequently lurks in the shadows, especially around Megan. He says he doesn’t care about his appearance, but his tendency is to stay in the shadows and that may have to do with the subtle romantic tension between the two. Stone’s history is so horrific that even in the condensed form of the story Stone recounts in ‘Roid Rage, it is no wonder how he got his nickname. There is also mentions of how he has accepted death seemingly multiple times a week. When Stone is in between jobs, he is sleeping in alleys and eating out of dumpsters, which may explain why he is susceptible to a lot of these jobs that are crazy even by futuristic hit-man standards.

I really loved the format Stabile utilizes throughout Stone Work. Rather than have this serve as a traditional novel or novella, Stone Work is a novel of stories that serve almost like case files to the various cases Stone has taken on throughout the years. This may seem like a fairly simple structural choice, but I feel it helps make the book stand out and adds more enjoyment to the story overall. It also provides a slew of opportunities for future stories featuring Stone and Megan and possibly further looks into the history of The City. While I was reading I couldn’t help but think of a ton of scenarios that would continue Stone and Megan’s adventures. These are just a few of them that I thought about – What caused the catastrophic last war?  What happened to Stone’s family? What kind of man was Stone before he got sentenced to the Wall? How did the religion of The City rise to prominence? What are the abberations that live on the other side of The Wall? 

While I loved this approach of quick, standalone stories and how they allowed me to sort of construct all of these scenarios in my imagination to keep the story going, some of the endings/transitions between stories seemed to fall kind of flat after all of the chaos Stone and Megan go through. I must admit though, Stone and Megan have to be complete badasses to  be able to survive the seemingly impossible situations they find themselves in!

Overall, I absolutely loved Stone Work and had a blast reading it! Once I got started and immersed myself into the world of The City, I was hooked and tore through the book over the course of an afternoon. I am a big fan of Stabile’s writing and look forward to checking out what he has planned for the future. I think it goes without saying that I hope there are more adventures featuring Stone and Megan in the future!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Dominic Stabile’s Official Website

Mirror Matter Press’ Official Website

Purchase Stone Work: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Stone Work tour graphic

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Stone Work Synopsis

City stands in the irradiated dunes of America, nearly two centuries after the Final War. The wall surrounding it is a buffer for the wasteland inhabitants who covet entrance, and a trap for the citizens smothering in its polluted air and drowning in its blood-filled streets.

Stone is a criminal for hire. Robbed of his loved ones and scarred almost beyond recognition, he navigates City’s darkest corners, doing some of its darkest deeds. In this collection, he’ll pursue an elusive thief, bent on raising an army of juiced up mutants. He’ll break into the office building of a mysterious corporation, only to find the executives are less into sending faxes and more into performing hexes.

In the final chapter, he’ll track a man through the Alleys of South City with the help of his tech savvy partner, Megan, and together they’ll face the sentient darkness of City’s deepest underbelly, and confront the violent potential of City’s most dangerous cults.

Part Blade Runner. Part Sin City. Stone Work is an action-packed ride through the rain-slicked streets of a dark, unforgiving urban landscape, rife with sadistic criminals, inter-dimensional abominations, and a creeping darkness that seeks to erase the last, now almost mythical traces of human goodness left in a world always teetering over the edge of its own extinction.

Praise for Dominic Stabile

“With Whiskey for Breakfast, Dominic Stabile provides a page turning mystery that kept me guessing as to who the real killers might be.” – Brenda Casto, Readersfavorite.com

Dominic Stabile Biography

Dominic_Stabile

Dominic Stabile’s short fiction has appeared in Fossil Lake III: Unicornado!, Sanitarium Magazine, The Horror Zine, Atticus Review, Far Horizons, and has been adapted as a radio play by Manor House Productions. He has held jobs as a warehouse worker, cashier, bookstore associate, textbook manager, and carpenter. He’s a born southerner, transplanted to Penobscot, Maine by a desperate desire to escape retail work. When not writing or reading, he enjoys horror, sci-fi, and noir films, westerns, and bourbon.

Read his blogs on all things horror at dominicstabile.com.

Want to Feature Dominic Stabile?

If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Dominic Stabile, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Marketing and Publicity at Mirror Matter Press and Hook of a Book Media: hookofabook@hotmail.com.