Archive for July, 2017

BOOK INFO

Length: 325 Pages

Publisher: Villipede Publications

Release Date: October 31, 2016

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

I have been a fan of J. Daniel Stone’s ever since I discovered his work through his short stories “Wormhole” (Dark Visions – Volume Two) and “Metamorphosis” (Ominous Realities) from Grey Matter Press’ stellar collection of anthologies. While I enjoyed those stories a lot, it was Stone’s contribution to last year’s I Can Taste the Blood that sticks with me the most and made me a fan for life. The story focuses on Bok and Jared, lovers who meet a mysterious filmmaker known as Laurenz and are quickly tangled up in his web of secrets and depravity. The story takes some truly dark and violent turns, and Stone makes some truly bold choices that pushes his contribution into extreme horror territory. Why do I bring up this story? Besides the fact that I think it is a brilliant novella, I feel like it shares similar ideas with Stone’s sophomore novel, Blood Kiss. If you haven’t already grabbed a copy of I Can Taste the Blood, I urge you to head on over to Amazon and order a copy along with Blood Kiss so you can get the full experience of this brilliant story.

Blood Kiss is a unique novel where Stone takes readers on a voyage into the world of art and the processes that drive it. Not to say that every artist is driven by darkness or trauma, but this novel feels like a love letter to the art of creating and those who pursue their passions at any cost. I have said it before in previous reviews of Stone’s work, but he really is a master of setting, which is an underrated quality of authors in my opinion. Stone’s depiction of New York City leaps off the page and he infuses the city with life with views from someone who lives there and allows his readers to experience the city first hand. It’s not the sanitized version we get from movies and TV shows, but the gritty and vibrant reality. I could literally quote section after section of Blood Kiss to illustrate this point, but trust me, you will want to read them for yourself.

Blood Kiss is an enthralling work of art that honestly left me as mesmerized as some of the people who witnessed Tyria and Dorian’s art, though with much less serious consequences. It’s a haunting and lyrical book that makes you question the reality of the events that unfold throughout the course of the story. It is full of lust, darkness, art, shadows and figures outside the realm of reality.

Stone’s Blood Kiss opens from Dorian Wilde’s point of view. He is an artist that specializes in the contrast of beauty and darkness, creating visceral works of art. His upbringing was rough as his parents never showed him any sort of affection, but he was able to accept this and it fueled him to become the man we meet in the book. While he was angry growing up when he reached his teens he channeled his anger into his creative endeavors. He is attracted to solitude and fell completely into the world of art and literature. He was constantly searching for his own path and growing up he frequently received beatings and insults from his father for being different. The day after his father caught him wearing his mothers underwear, he found a suitcase by the door with some money in it, effectively being kicked out of his own home.

It was shortly after being kicked out of his childhood home that Dorian began to notice things change. He saw his first sketch move, actually brought to life by the passion in which Dorian distilled into it. He has a boyfriend named Leland, an art dealer who is also a notorious party-boy. When he paints, Dorian loses control himself to the images that are fighting to break free, he compares it to an out-of-body experience. There is something more unique to Dorian’s artwork than just the dark images that spring forth, but even the tools he utilizes set him apart and show his dedication to his craft. He makes his own paint with blood and other bodily fluids, breathing his own living essence into the forms that spill from his imagination. Is Dorian’s work capable of coming to life? That is only one of the many questions that pops up throughout Blood Kiss.

Stone does an amazing job bringing Dorian’s dark, surreal works to life and they conjure up dark images that are extremely creative and original. Take this description from one of Dorian’s works, “A bony paunch balances on chitinous legs; carrion arms spread as if inviting a passerby to sit within its darkly beaded depths; a slack-jaw skull screams with no voice; xylophone ribs glow like the most intricate spider webs under moonlight; a hand curled into a fist has no arm to support it.” Despite the nature of Dorian’s art and the fact that it very well may be alive, he makes a pretty comfortable living selling his art at fancy galleries.

The other major character of Blood Kiss is Tyria Vane, a spoken word poet whose prose is incredibly powerful. Despite her writing talent, she struggles with emotions and trying to use her art to convey those feelings that most will never feel in the same way. Tyria has an obsession with words and language, stockpiling books in a way most other bibliophiles can immediately relate to. She has a self-published collection that sits on her shelf and she sees it as a failure, but it also serves as an affirmation of her art and fuels her drive to improve her craft. She has a partner named Adelaide, a drug dealer who is friends with Leland from years ago. Their relationship is one of co-dependence, Adelaide is perfect for her because she believes in Tyria’s talent and always has and that coupled with her listening abilities are what bonds them despite them being polar opposites in almost every way. Tyria’s relationship with Adelaide also fuels her use of cocaine because it is easy to come by thanks to Adelaide’s connections. She went through many phases to cope with her loneliness, but cocaine is the one that stuck because it makes her feel powerful. Tyria channels all of her rage and trauma from throughout her brutal upbringing and uses them in her performances, using her voice and delivery style as a weapon. Changes in pitch and unfiltered emotion drive her performances and leave anyone who witnesses her work changed. Her performances have an almost magical quality about them.

The moment Dorian and Tyria meet each other at an art gallery for one of Dorian’s exhibitions, their lives will be changed forever. They were brought together by their respective lovers, but I have a feeling neither Adelaide or Leland knew the consequences of this fateful meeting. Dorian gets a hold of Tyria’s personal notebook and it doesn’t take long for him to be consumed by the thought of her. It goes far beyond sexuality, the obsession and pull they feel is tied to the art and their similar backgrounds. It isn’t long before they are drawn together to combine their artistic gifts in the hopes that they can create something truly mesmerizing. They begin to gather a rather rabid local following and soon the power of their two creative energies will unleash something that defies logical explanation.

The character work in Blood Kiss is brilliant, as each one comes to life and feels like a living breathing person, complete with their own fears, desires, and past mistakes. Even the secondary characters are vibrant and help elevate the story. I also like that most of Blood Kiss focuses on alternative culture and art. I was never very artistic, but punk and alternative music was a huge part of my life and some of my best memories were going to those shows and Stone captures the feeling of those shows perfectly throughout Blood Kiss. It’s a small touch, but I loved the musical touchstones Stone sprinkles throughout the novel. I feel like we both are into the same sort of music as I loved all the references and nearly shouted with glee when I saw a Glassjaw mentioned (if you don’t know who they are, look them up. It’s worth it).

To be honest, I had a difficult time summing up Blood Kiss when I sat down to write this review. Not because it’s confusing, but because it is intricately layered and there are so many revelations that it is difficult to avoid spoilers. One thing that is for certain is that J. Daniel Stone has a unique voice and is stunningly talented. His stories are daring and original,  and there is no doubt in my mind that he is a special talent in the dark fiction field. Each time I read one of his works, I am totally enthralled in his story and blown away by the sheer talent on display. Had I read this one sooner, there is no doubt in my mind it would have been near the top of my best of the year list for 2006. Blood Kiss is a towering achievement and the scary thing is, Stone is just getting started. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book, you won’t regret it.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

J. Daniel Stone’s Amazon Page

J. Daniel Stone on Twitter

Villipede Publications Official Website

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

About J. Daniel Stone

J. Daniel Stone is the pseudonym for a hotheaded Italian kid from NYC. He has been a menace to society since 1987 and continues to terrorize local book stores, art galleries and dive bars. When he is not causing mischief he 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.

BOOK INFO

Length: 284 Pages

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Review copy provided as part of A Life Removed Blog Tour by Confessions Publicity

I first discovered Jason Parent’s work after he contacted me to review a copy of his then latest novel Seeing Evil. I remember hearing nothing but great things about his writing, so I jumped at the chance to feature him on The Horror Bookshelf. After I finished Seeing Evil, I knew I was going to be a long time fan. The story centered around Michael Turcotte, a teenager who has been in foster care since his parents death when he was just an infant. He has a close bond with Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly who was on the scene and rescued him after his parents murder-suicide. Despite the trauma of his past, Michael is your average kid trying to make it through the trials of high school. He is a target for bullies and tries to keep to himself, but he is viciously attacked one day and the attack changes his life forever. After the attack Michael has a vision. It seems like a random dream brought on by the aftermath of his savage attack, but it feels all to real to Michael. Although Samantha doesn’t believe Michael’s visions are real initially, once they come true, she has no choice but to believe him. Michael’s visions eventually lead him and Sam into a dangerous quest for answers that brings them face to face with a ruthless killer. In Seeing Evil, Parent created a terrifying antagonist that still sticks out in my mind years after reading it and holding nothing back as he takes readers on an action-packed journey.

I also loved reading Unseemly and his recent collection Wrathbone, with the novella of the same name being one of my favorite in recent years. Parent shows a lot of versatility as an author, dabbling in many different genres and often blending them together to create something entertaining and unique. That sort of genre-bending is also found on display with A Life Removed, a thriller that has smatterings of horror woven into its DNA.

A Life Removed focuses on a city being held hostage by a killer who leaves a path of brutal destruction in their wake and sets all of the residents on edge. Sure, the town can be a little rough, but no one expected this level of brutality to take over their small community. Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette feel the pressure to bring this crazed killer to justice, but they are left with little to go on as the killer’s ritualistic killings have claimed victims from all walks of life, which makes the killer increasingly difficult to catch. While they are the lead investigators on the case, Officer Aaron Pimental is thrust into the center of the investigation as well after stumbling across one of the killer’s early victims. His personal life is in turmoil and he never viewed himself as much of a cop, so his sudden elevation to a key figure on the task force places a lot of strain on him and makes him question what type of person he really is. As the clues start to fall into place, Aaron realizes that he has a very important choice to make and he along with Marklin and Beaudette are racing against time to put an end to these horrific murders.

Parent wastes no time hooking the reader as the novel kicks off with a scene of what happened to one of the first victims. Readers are introduced to Eliza, a woman who once had a bright future, but had all of her dreams stripped away by an addiction to cocaine that led her to a life of prostitution. As she is walking the streets she hears a man calling to her from a van that idled up to the curb. Eliza sees him as an easy mark, someone who reminds her of a 1950s-era crooner, good-looking and seemingly harmless. His charming demeanor sets off warning alarms in her mind, but she is fixed on her next hit so she buries her reservations deep inside. She gets in the van and that is when her nightmare starts and we get our first glimpse of the bloodthirsty killer that has decided to set up shop in Fall River. I liked the fact that Parent started the novel off from the victim’s perspective because it places the reader right in the middle of the action and sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Parent utilizes this approach a few times throughout the A Life Removed and each time it ratchets up the tension and makes for some memorable and engaging scenes.

The character work is excellent and Parent does a good job of bringing these characters to life not just through their appearance but also by revealing anecdotes about them and their mannerisms. Aaron isn’t what you would expect, he has a lot of demons in his past that start to come back to haunt him after he stumbles across the first victim. I don’t want to get into his past too much, but the scenes about Aaron’s life that are sprinkled throughout the course of the novel help generate a bit of mystery and make him an interesting character. Parent does some interesting things with Aaron’s story throughout the course of the book which takes him from being just a good character to a great one.

Detective Marklin seems like an arrogant jerk by almost every person he works with, aside from his own partner. However, there are a few scenes that show there is more to him than just being the department jerk, but that he deeply cares about people and protecting the community. While he is a pretty well-rounded character, there was potential to dive a little deeper into his past that I think may have made him stronger. Detective Beaudette is a great detective too who worked her way up rather quickly and while she can handle the rigors of the job, working homicide does take its toll on her. She reflects often that she is called to the scene after the bodies are already dead and just once she would like to save someone when they are still alive. Both her and Marklin both care about the communities they are sworn to protect, but their lives are different. Jocelyn still clings to some of her optimism and has a family to go home to whereas Marklin is more cynical and a bit of a loner. Their differences in personality and the way they use that to interact with each other when going over evidence makes them a highly effective team and also makes their chemistry realistic.

Considering this is a thriller based on a ritualistic serial killer, I think it goes without saying that A Life Removed is pretty dark. The descriptions of the attacks that occur throughout the story are brutal and Parent doesn’t hold anything back in these scenes. Without venturing into spoiler territory, there are a few scenes that are definitely not for the squeamish and will make you cringe. Parent creates a memorable antagonist in A Life Removed, because the thing that makes him the most dangerous has nothing to do with violence, but rather his charisma. That trait plays a large role in the events of the novel and the scariest part about it is something that has played out in the real world time and time again.

A Life Removed is an engaging thriller that will undoubtedly appeal to a wide readership. There is an intriguing mystery, a great cast of characters and some great plot twists. At first, A Life Removed reads like a standard thriller, but there comes a point where Parent shifts gears and takes things in a totally unexpected direction which helps it stand out. For horror fans, there is a bit of the “weird” sprinkled throughout that adds another interesting element to the story. I also enjoyed that this novel loosely ties into the Seeing Evil, as a familiar name makes a cameo appearance at one point in the novel and is set in the same fictional town of Fall River, Massachusetts. Parent has a lot of great books in his catalog, but I think that A Life Removed may be his best yet. Highly Recommended!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Jason Parent’s Official Website

Red Adept Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase A Life Removed: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Red Adept Publishing or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

A Life Removed Synopsis

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About Jason Parent

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it’s harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody’s head off – he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook at , on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.

 

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Jason Parent, the author of the dark, brutal thriller A Life Removed – which is out now – and a ton of other great books. I have a review scheduled for tomorrow, so I won’t dig too much into the novel, but if you are familiar with Jason’s work, you will love this one. Jason’s post is a follow-up piece to the guest post from Stuart R Brogan on publishing. Both authors make great points and I recommend checking out both of them for some insight on their experiences in publishing.

Before I turn over the blog to Jason, I want to thank him and Nev of Confessions Publicity for having me on the tour!

Early in May, Stuart R. Brogan, author of Jackals, wrote a guest post for The Horror Bookshelf entitled, “Going It Alone,” in which he explained why he chose to self-publish instead of going the traditional or small press route. I enjoyed the article and even commented on it at the time, not realizing I would be doing a guest post for the same blog a month or so later.

First let me say this: I don’t think any author being honest with himself/herself would balk at a book deal with one of the Big 5 if he/she has never had such a deal before. To have one’s books in brick and mortar stores all over the U.S. or U.K., maybe in bookstores on several continents, is a dream most authors share, not necessarily for the fame or the (perceived) money, but to be read and to know that one’s words are being felt, enjoyed, pondered, and maybe even considered and dismissed by readers everywhere. At least for me, that’s all I want: for others to find meaning in my work, and if it’s a whole lot of others, then I know I am not alone in my beliefs and world views.

But only a select few horror authors are actually published by the Big 5, and a few more if you count those that pass off their horror as “thrillers” (not that I know anyone who would ever combine horror and thrillers, wink wink, nudge nudge). Many of the best, most popular, and most critically acclaimed horror writers have never had a deal with the Big 5.

So, I don’t waste my time and don’t really have the time to waste. I would need to find an agent, be prepared to market the book strenuously, both on the publisher’s and my own schedule, and give up a whole lot for potentially big but more often than not, little gain. Just finding an agent takes a ton of research, the sending of query after query, and hours upon end that could have been spent writing. That is not to say that the right agent would not be a boon for a writer’s career, and a great agent always will be. I had an agent once, and though it didn’t pan out to anything, I do not regret the experience and would undertake it again if the right circumstances arose.

But for most small presses, where my books find their homes, I have not needed an agent. Again, good agents open up more doors, so they can be very helpful. In the small press world, they are simply not a necessity.

Which brings me to why I choose small presses over self-publishing. Without the guidance of an agent or other business professional, I’d be a mess. The road to publication would be much longer as I lack the know-how with respect to formatting, cover art, and other aspects of book creation that the small press brings to the table. For those with this know-how, like Mr. Brogan, self-publishing may be the right way to go, as the author maximizes his royalties, though while simultaneously bearing the burden of all costs.

I’ve been published by several small presses now, and I have turned down a few others. Different presses have different strengths and weaknesses, but all should provide quality editing, a decent royalty split and strong cover art. Never should they charge the author any sort of fee. They provide varying degrees of promotion as well, some having publicists or setting up blog tours, while others submit to Net Galley or book promotion sites. With more hands in the pot wanting the book to succeed, it would stand to reason that there’d be more people desirous of putting out quality work.

Obviously, if one self-publishes, he or she goes all these routes alone. The quality of the work he or she produces depends on the extent of his/her knowledge, integrity, and commitment to producing a work worthy of the reader public and that of the persons he or she enlists to assist.

What is better for one may not be better for another, and there are good and bad small presses just as there are good and bad self-publishers. For my needs, and sometimes overwhelming schedule, the single most important plus with respect to small publishers is the time it saves me after the writing and editing are done.

For now, I am happy where I am and with the small presses I have chosen (and who have likewise chosen me) to work with. That said, the future is a hazy thing, and I could easily see myself self-publishing or rolling the dice on an agent with a novel I think a good fit with a Big 5 publisher. Of course, any agent or Big 5 publisher that wants to seek me out, make like the Price is Right and come on down!

LINKS

Jason Parent’s Official Website

Red Adept Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase A Life Removed: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Red Adept Publishing or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

A Life Removed Synopsis

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About Jason Parent

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it’s harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody’s head off – he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook at , on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.