Posts Tagged ‘Russell James’

I’m a bit late with my 2017 list as the first month of 2018 is just about over (seriously, where did this year go?), but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. There is always a staggering amount of great horror books released every year, but this year felt like it was a really high mark for horror fiction. I’m already anticipating a ton of 2018 releases, so I have a feeling I will be saying the same thing next year!

This list is by no means exhaustive of all the books out there, some I was unfortunately unable to get to in time to include on this list. However, of the works I did get to read, these were among my favorites. There are a lot of books on here that appeared on numerous other lists, but I think you may find a few new selections and I hope that you will check them out and find something you enjoy. I also wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m so glad to be a part of the horror community. I have met so many great people through running The Horror Bookshelf that I talk to fairly regularly and other than talking about the books I love, it makes all the time that goes into writing posts totally worth it. I hope to meet more fellow bloggers and writers and to be more engaged in 2018. Now that I got all of my rambling out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my Favorite Reads of 2017!

Novels

1. Josh Malerman – Black Mad Wheel

Leading off my list of favorite reads for the year is Malerman’s stellar Black Mad Wheel. I have been a fan of Malerman’s ever since discovering his debut Bird Box, which was highly original and one of my favorite novels of the past few years. Black Mad Wheel follows Detroit-based rock band The Danes as they attempt to track down the source of a mysterious and extremely dangerous sound emanating from an African desert. Malerman’s characterization is top-notch and his experience as a musician is what makes The Danes come alive. Throw in a mystery that compels you to journey deeper into the desert with the Danes and you have a compulsively readable novel that shows why Malerman is quickly becoming a favorite among horror fans.

2. Jonathan Janz  – Exorcist Falls

Exorcist Falls is the sequel to Janz’s novella Exorcist Road, which was originally released through Samhain Horror and appears in print again in this Sinister Grin edition. Exorcist Falls kicks off with the original novella, which is great for people like me that missed Exorcist Road the first time around or those who wish to re-read it to experience the story as a whole. Exorcist Falls draws inspiration from the towering classics that started America’s fascination with possession stories William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Legion and starts with a quote from The Exorcist. I could go on for hours about how much I loved Exorcist Falls (and almost did in my review), but I will sum it up by saying Janz conjures up some truly diabolical evil in this novel and it features some of the most bone chilling scenes I have read in a possession story. This is right up there with Children of the Dark for my favorite Janz novel.

3. Ronald MalfiBone White

Ronald Malfi consistently puts out great novels and if you are a regular follower of The Horror Bookshelf, it should come as no surprise to see Malfi’s name near the top of my list. Last year The Night Parade was my top book of the year and really struck a chord in me especially as a new father. Bone White is a novel that stuck with me, but for far more sinister reasons. Bone White follows Paul Gallo as he ventures into the Alaskan wilderness to a town called Dread’s Hand in hopes of finding out the truth of what happened to his twin brother who went missing over a year ago. What he finds is a town that is superstitious and wary of outsiders, but that is only the start of a strange and dangerous journey that will alter Gallo’s life forever. Malfi steadily builds tension and fear throughout the course of Bone White which seeps into your bones and makes for a thrilling read. The remote Alaskan setting is perfect for story and Malfi utilizes that sense of isolation masterfully, so by the time you discover the crosses in the woods, you are creeped out beyond words. I recommend this novel at any time of the year, but this is a perfect read if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and find yourself snowed in. Bone White is a stunning novel athat has me looking forward to Malfi’s next work.

4. Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – Those Who Follow

Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason – who go by the nickname The Sisters of Slaughter- burst onto the scene last year with Mayan Blue, their Stoker nominated debut that took readers on a bloody trip into the Mayan underworld. Mayan Blue was a blast to read and ended up in my top 10 last year and I mentioned in my review that I couldn’t wait to see what they came up with next. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long as they released their sophomore novel Those Who Follow over the summer. I just squeezed this one in prior to starting this list and I am so glad I did. As much as I loved Mayan Blue, the Sisters of Slaughter have taken their writing to another level with Those Who Follow. This novel is dark and brutal, featuring a villain that relishes the torment and horror he inflicts on his victims. If you like your horror a little more on the extreme side, definitely add this one to your collection.

5. Paul KaneBefore

Before is one of three stellar novels released this year from Grey Matter Press. This was my first time reading Kane’s work and I was totally enthralled by the sprawling world he created in Before. I don’t want to delve too much into the novel as I have a more in-depth review in the works, but Before follows college professor Alex Webber who attempts to decipher the visions that plague him and avoid crossing paths with a being known as The Infinity. This is an engrossing novel that will appeal not only horror fans, but fans of other genres as well. Before is impressive in scope and the characters are excellent. I love the contrast of a seemingly average man going up against a force that wields a staggering power. Excellent novel and I can’t wait to dive into Kane’s other works, particularly Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell!

6. J. Danielle DornThe Devil’s Call

The Devil’s Call is the debut novel from J Danielle Dorn, who I was surprised to learn was a local author. The novel comes from Inkshares, who is a publisher definitely on the rise as they have released this one and A God in the Shed from J-F. Dubeau (which I haven’t read yet, but is sitting in my TBR pile). The Devil’s Call is an interesting mash-up of the horror and Western genres set in 1859. Li Lian Callahan witnesses the brutal murder of her husband Dr. Matthew Callahan while carrying their first child. Little does this band of men know, they are dealing with a powerful witch that travels from Nebraska to Louisiana to the Badlands in order to bring her husband’s killers to justice by any means possible. I went into this one fairly blind and was blown away by Dorn’s gift for storytelling. Normally I’m not a huge fan of Western’s, but there was something magical about this one that kept me riveted right from the beginning. Dorn’s decision to have the narrative reflect Li Lian writing to her unborn daughter was a risky one, but she pulls it off flawlessly. Li Lian is probably my favorite character from this year along with Trixie from Chad Stroup’s Secrets of the Weird, which appears later on this list. Outstanding characterization and a fresh twist on the revenge tale, Dorn is writer worth following and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

7. Hunter SheaWe Are Always Watching

Hunter Shea is another longtime favorite of The Horror Bookshelf and 2017 was a great year for Shea fans which saw the release of 2 novels and 4 novellas. We Are Always Watching is loosely based on a true story and follows West Ridley as he and his family move from New York to their grandfather’s rundown farm. Almost as soon as they move in, weird this begin happening around the farmhouse but the threats become all too real as Wes wakes up one day to see the words “WE SEE YOU” scrawled into his ceiling. As the danger beings to pile up, West must sift through long-held secrets and find a way to expose the mysterious Guardians once and for all. The paranoia Shea conjures up by having these events plague the family’s home is what makes this novel so good. A bit more “quiet” horror than readers are used to from Hunter, but it is refreshing and ranks pretty high up on my list of favorite Hunter Shea novels.

8. Ania AhlbornThe Devil Crept In

What makes The Devil Crept In such an engaging read is the originality of the premise. Throughout the novel, Ahlborn makes readers question just what exactly is happening in the woods of Deer Valley. There are hints scattered throughout this seemingly sleepy small town that something isn’t right, but you can’t quite place your finger on it. That nagging sense of mystery is part of the fun of this novel. Out of all the crazy ideas that ran through my head – cobbled together from years of reading horror novels and watching horror films – the truth behind what happened to Jude never crossed my mind. The Devil Crept In is another stellar offering from a gifted storyteller. An original premise, vivid characters and a great sense of atmosphere (not to mention some truly unnerving scenes) all mesh together to create a thrilling reading experience. If you haven’t read any of Ahlborn’s work yet, I highly recommend grabbing at least one of her books. I have a feeling once you read one, you’ll be hooked, just like I was!

9. J.D. BarkerThe Fourth Monkey

The Fourth Monkey is more of a psychological thriller, but it mines the same dark depths of the human psyche for inspiration that Forsaken did, making it a must read for fans of both genres. The Fourth Monkey is being described as Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs and that is a pretty accurate comparison. This is a chilling thriller that is compulsively readable and offers up plenty of twists and turns, hinting at a very interesting future for characters in this book. While I hope for a continuation of Forsaken, I am loving Barker’s journey into the thriller genre and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

10. Karen RungeSeeing Double

Seeing Double is Karen Runge’s debut novel, coming from one of the best horror publishers around Grey Matter Press. This was one of the novels I was really looking forward to this year as I have been impressed with Runge’s writing ever since I read her story “Hope is Here” in the outstanding anthology Suspended in Dusk, which was edited by Simon Dewar. After that I was hooked, looking out for her short stories whenever they appeared in an anthology and then fully cementing myself as a life-long fan when I read her brilliant debut collection Seven Sins. While her talent is on evident display in her standalone stories, this collection is incredibly impressive and showcases her willingness to take risks with her stories and there were a few that utilized interesting formatting (layouts? structure?) that only added more power to her words. Needless to say when I caught wind of her debut novel Seeing Double, I could barely contain my excitement.

Seeing Double is a character driven piece and Runge expertly breathes life into these characters, which is important because there is a heavy psychological element to this story. Stories that depend on this sort of psychological tension and issues live and die on the strength of the author’s abilities to create realistic characters and Runge accomplishes that with ease. I have to applaud Runge for the rich layers and complexity of her narrative in Seeing Double, a novel that is sure to establish Runge as a force in the genre.

11. Chad StroupSecrets of the Weird

Chad Stroup’s Secrets of The Weird is a novel that has drawn comparisons to Clive Barker’s darker fantasy work, but honestly, defies easy description. Secrets of the Weird doesn’t exactly follow a linear approach in terms of the narrative of the story, but it works extremely well and enhances the story and allows for a vivid and personal look into the life of the main character Trixie. It alternates between the present (which if I remember correctly, is like 1991 or 1992 in the novel) and Trixie’s Diary entries from the late ’80s. Not only does the timeline remain fluid throughout much of the story, the point of view often switches between Trixie, members of the Civilized Cannibals, the Angelghoul and a few others. Stroup’s Secrets of the Weird is a wildly imaginative novel that is a must read for any dark fiction fan that is looking for something a little different. There is no denying Stroup is a talented new voice and his outstanding character development and willingness to experiment within the horror and fantasy genres have definitely made me a fan. I look forward to following Stroup’s future work and highly recommend grabbing a copy of this brilliant debut novel.

12. Glenn RolfeBecoming

I’ve been a huge fan of Glenn Rolfe’s work ever since I discovered his chilling debut The Haunted Halls. From there I devoured all of his books from Samhain. Becoming is an absolute blast, drawing from 80s horror movies, particularly creature features. Rolfe’s adrenaline-fueled style leads to an action packed story from start to finish. After the collapse of Samhain, I was worried it would be awhile before getting anything new from Rolfe. I was happy to be proven wrong. Rolfe has a few things in the works (a collection called Land of Bones and a novella called Follow Me Down) coming this year. If you haven’t read any of his books before, now is a perfect time to get started.

13. Russell JamesCavern of the Damned

James’ Cavern of the Damned is a fun read that delivers both adventure and horror in spades. The characters go up against giant, deadly prehistoric creatures all while trapped in a cave with virtually no weapons. Once I started this book, there was no putting it down until I reached the last page. I had a very minor issue with one of the subplots, but aside from that, Cavern of the Damned was a blast to to read. I could be wrong, but I think recently I saw that James said there was a sequel in the works. I hope that there are many more books to come in this series, I think he could do some really cool things with the idea developed in Cavern of the Damned.

14. Brian Fatah SteeleThere is a Darkness in Every Room

Steele’s novel is one that i think was severely underrated this year. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows about my borderline unhealthy obsession about UFOs and aliens and that is initially what drew me to Steele’s book. While Steele mixes in enough of “traditional” alien elements, he also injects a special blend of evil and madness that creates a unique and oftentimes bleak cosmic horror piece. Steele is a talented writer and luckily he announced an upcoming project through Bloodshot Books, so it shouldn’t be long until readers can get their hands on more of his stuff.

15. Catherine CavendishWrath of the Ancients

This was my first novel from Catherine Cavendish and I’m kicking myself for not checking out her work earlier. Cavendish offers up an atmospheric gothic horror tale that effortlessly blends together history and the supernatural to create an unsettling horror story that will appeal to almost any horror fan. While leaning a bit more toward quiet horror territory, there are plenty of hair-raising scenes draw from the steadily growing dread Cavendish creates over the course of Wrath of the Ancients. I’m definitely a fan and can’t wait to dive into some of her other works. This one is listed as Nemesis of the Gods #1, so I’m hoping there is more to come from this line even if they are only loosely connected.

Novella

1. Kealan Patrick Burke Blanky

Blanky focuses on Steve Brannigan, who is struggling to keep his life together after the tragic death of his infant daughter. He is estranged from his wife after the grief they both felt in the aftermath placed a strain on their marriage that drove them apart. Burke holds nothing back and starts Blanky with Steve giving a heartbreaking account of what it’s like to lose a child. Then Burke throws readers right into the story with one simple line, “That was the beginning of the end of my world. This is the rest of it.” Blanky is a devastating novella that utilizes emotion, atmosphere and outstanding characterization to create a truly haunting story. I remember when I read the synopsis, I knew this story was going to hit me hard. I’m a new parent and I couldn’t imagine a more terrifying scenario than the one Steve and Lex face in Blanky. Burke did not disappoint as Blanky messed with my emotions and kept me glued to the pages, reading it in a single sitting and feeling like I took a sucker punch to the gut. If you’re looking to start discovering Burke’s work, this is a good place to start.

2. Ania AhlbornI Call Upon Thee

I’ve already gone over my love of Ania Ahlborn’s work more times than I can count, so I will jump right into I Call Upon Thee. This novella from Ahlborn follows Maggie as she returns to her childhood following a family tragedy. Maggie had a normal childhood for the most part until an innocent act as a child invited an evil from the local cemetery into her life that has refused to ever leave since. Maggie realizes she must confront her past in an attempt to vanquish the evil that has been responsible for so much heartache and tragedy, but it will not be an easy fight. When I originally read this, I was struck by its resemblance to my favorite Ahlborn novel The Bird Eater. It is its own unique story, but carries some of the same emotional undertones as that novel and that is probably why this one is probably the “1B” to The Bird Eater’s “1A” status. While Ahlborn conjures up some of her scariest scenes in I Call Upon Thee, it is the familial relationships that serve as the heart of this novel. A lean, mean story that proves why Ahlborn is one of my favorite storytellers.

3. Hunter SheaSavage Jungle

Hunter Shea has created numerous excellent horror novels that vary in topic, but there is no denying he is the king of cryptid novels. His stories that focus on infamous cryptids are always some of my most anticipated reads because they are high-octane reads that never lost their intensity from start to finish. It’s also evident that Shea shares my passion and interest in cryptid lore and he pours every bit of his extensive knowledge into these tales and then ratchets up the terror as high as possible. Savage Jungle has all of those hallmark traits and just when I thought this story couldn’t get any more insane (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible), Shea annihilates my expectations. For those who loved following the McQueen twins on their quest for revenge in Loch Ness Revenge, they will love this follow-up that finds them once again teaming up with their friend Henrik on his own personal vendetta. This time they trio venture into the depths of the Sumatran jungle in search of the Orang Pendek, but what they encounter is beyond their wildest dreams. There are other dangerous things waiting for them in the jungle and it takes every ounce of will power and weaponry to have a shot at escaping in one piece. This was another stellar entry into Shea’s body of work and a perfect example of why I will read anything he puts out, no questions asked.

Honorable Mention: Hunter SheaFury of the Orcas

I didn’t want to rank this one because it’s dedicated to me, but I’ll be damned if I don’t mention it in some capacity. Shea’s latest novella offering takes a look at what would happen if Orca whales suddenly went on the warpath and needless to say, the results aren’t pretty. This story is vintage Hunter Shea, full of absolute mayhem and tense scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t already, snag a copy of this one from Severed Press. You can thank me later.

Anthologies/Collections

1. Josh MalermanGoblin

Goblin is a set of six novellas that all take place in the strange town of Goblin, where it is seemingly always raining and you definitely don’t want to cross paths with the ominous police force that seems to be made up of men who are a little…off. I don’t want to get too much into the novellas that make up Goblin as I am working on a pretty extensive review, but I was amazed at the way Malerman was able to give each one its own style and tone. Despite each novella being its own contained story, they all fit together neatly to form one cohesive whole. Goblin is a town that is filled with a dark history and bizarre events that will unsettle most horror fans, but despite the oddness and danger that is seemingly lurking below the surface, you won’t want to leave Malerman’s creation. There is no denying Malerman creativity and with this collection it really allows him to stretch his talents and the end result is six fantastic novellas and a town that will cement itself right alongside King’s Castle Rock and Derry.

2. Ed Erdelac – Angler in Darkness

I first heard about this collection of novellas from Shane Keene of Shotgun Logic and his recommendations are always golden, so I decided to check out this collection from Ed Erdelac. Angler in Darkness is his first collection of short fiction that spans over a decade and let me just say….why the hell aren’t more people talking about his work?! Erdelac’s prose is simply outstanding and he displays that in every single one of Angler in Darkness’ 18 stories. There is not a single lull in this collection and one of the things I love about Erdelac’s work is that he mixes in history and isn’t afraid to take on different eras for his settings. He also mines folklore and legends from other cultures, so each story is a breath of fresh air as he avoids most of the topics horror fans are already familiar with. Seriously, if you haven’t read anything by Erdelac yet, you need this collection. I will definitely be going back and checking out his novels, I have Andersonville waiting on my Kindle and am excited to check it out.

3. Garden of Fiends

A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories. Matthews’ has put together something truly special with Garden of Fiends and this is a must-read anthology for any horror fan. Featuring stories from Kealan Patrick Burke, Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, Johann Thorsson, John F.D. Taff, Glen Krisch, Mark Matthews and Jack Ketchum.

4. Todd KeislingUgly Little Things

One of my earliest reviews for The Horror Bookshelf was Keisling’s Ugly Little Things – Volume One and I remember being completely absorbed by the wonderfully weird stories contained within that made me think of The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. This release contains some of those stories as well as some of the newer ones I had missed. It has almost been 3 years since I first read these stories and upon my second read through, they still pack the same punch as when I initially devoured these stories. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but the one that sticks with me the most is “Saving Granny From The Devil”. It’s a visceral and emotionally engaging story, the perfect blend of the sort of horrible things we go through in real life and the supernatural. It is a semi-autobiographical tale and the honesty Keisling shows here is probably why this one continues to stick with me years later. Then to top things off, it contains the brilliant novella The Final Reconciliation, which I read for the first time this year. This story follows the tribulations faced by The Yellow Kings after they meet up with the mysterious Camilla, who promises to deliver The Yellow Kings the success they are looking for. However, her help doesn’t come without strings attached. The Final Reconciliation made it to the preliminary ballot stage of this year’s Stoker Awards and if there is any justice, it will be on the final ballot as well. An essential addition to your library and my anticipation to read his upcoming work, Devil’s Creek, is off the charts.

5. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – BREATHE. BREATHE. 

A tireless champion of horror fiction, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi breaks into the genre with her debut collection BREATHE. BREATHE. Her dark and vivid poetry and short stories will be sure to delight fans of dark fiction. What impressed me the most about Al-Mehairi’s work is the emotional power behind not just the poetry, but the stories as well. “Dandelion Yellow” is a heart-wrenching story that will haunt you long after you finish reading it. I had read it twice, once in the limited chapbook and then later in the extended ebook version, and each time it hit me like a ton of bricks. Another one of my favorites was “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio”. This one had a really cool format that takes you into the households of a few couples on Valhalla Lane. I don’t want to spoil it for those who have yet to read it, but these little stories within the story all tie together and I thought the structure was an excellent choice and an intriguing plot. The story stands strong as is, but I would love to see this concept fleshed out into a longer piece. This is a strong debut effort and I can’t wait to see what other stories Al-Mehairi has up her sleeve!

Special Mention

Grady Hendrix with Will ErricksonPaperbacks from Hell

This book gets its own section because it was the only horror based nonfiction book I read this year (which I want to change that for 2018), but also because it is just that damn good. My review of Paperbacks from Hell is the entry right below this one if you’re interested in learning more about it, but the short version is that this is a book that needs to be on every horror fiction fan’s bookshelf. It’s an incredible book and I hope that there is another volume or similar project in the works, but that’s mainly because I’m greedy and need more!

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I am a bit late with my 2015 as the first month of 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2015 was a great year here at The Horror Bookshelf. The blog celebrated its one year anniversary back in April, I made some great friends, I got to take part in SFSignal’s Mind Meld feature and I had the honor of premiering a brand new story from Glenn Rolfe.

I never really made a post for The Horror Bookshelf’s first anniversary, so I wanted to just take a minute and touch on a few things before getting to my list of favorite reads for the year. I started this blog as my way of giving back to the extremely talented writers who have created the books I enjoy reading and connecting with other horror fans. In that respect, I think the first year of The Horror Bookshelf was a huge success. I am so thankful for all of the writers and publishers who reached out to me and offered me review copies and words of encouragement along the way. Without you and the books you spend so much time crafting, The Horror Bookshelf would not exist. I also want to thank anyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my reviews, interviews or guest posts. There is no greater feeling as a reviewer than introducing someone to a potentially new favorite author or a great book and I hope that by visiting this site, you have found a few.

There are so many people to thank for helping this blog become what it is today, but I wanted to take a moment to thank a few special people who have shown me a humbling amount of support since the very beginning. A huge thank you to my friends and family, Tony and Sharon at Grey Matter Press, John F.D. Taff, David Spell, Mark Matthews, Dale Elster and Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. You have all offered me so much support and tons of encouragement when The Horror Bookshelf was getting off the ground and I will always be grateful for that. I also want to thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me to follow my dreams and for giving me that boost of confidence I need when I feel like I can’t possibly keep everything going.

I am not usually big on New Year’s Resolutions, but what the hell, I came up with some for The Horror Bookshelf anyway.

1. Read more in 2016 – This one is fairly vague and for anyone that runs a review site, it sounds borderline crazy. I read a ton of great novels in 2016, but one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t read that many novellas, short stories or anthologies this year. I hope to change that in 2016 and also to increase the amount of novels I read in a year.

2. Get more organized – I am notorious for my poor organizational habits, but I have already made some progress by using a planner (that my wife made me buy) to help me keep track of all my upcoming reviews, interviews and features. This may be the most mundane and boring resolution of the list, but it is an underrated part of keeping a review site going in my opinion.

3. Keeping the site updated more frequently – This may be the biggest challenge of them all. I am the only writer on The Horror Bookshelf and the amount of reviews I have going at any given time can be overwhelming, but I want to set a modest goal – starting in February – of posting at least once a week. Sort of on the same topic, if I owe you a review and have not posted it yet, I promise I haven’t forgotten! I appreciate every author that sends me a book for review and sometimes time gets away from me, but I promise I will get to them soon.

Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2015. I decided to go with a Top 10 for novels, a Top 5 for novellas and a Top 3 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

1 . Brian Kirk We Are Monsters (Samhain Horror)

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2. Richard Thomas Disintegration (Random House Alibi)

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3. Ronald Malfi Little Girls (Kensington)

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4. Ania Ahlborn Behind These Walls (Gallery Books)

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5. Hunter Shea Tortures of the Damned (Kensington/Pinnacle)

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6. Jonathan Janz Wolf Land (Samhain Horror)

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7. D. Alexander Ward Blood Savages (Necro Publications)

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8. Russell James Q Island (Samhain Horror)

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9. Glenn Rolfe Blood and Rain (Samhain Horror)

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10. Kristopher Rufty Jagger (Sinister Grin Press)

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Novellas

1. John F.D. Taff The Sunken Cathedral (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Kealan Patrick Burke Sour Candy (Self-published)

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3. Glenn Rolfe Abram’s Bridge (Samhain Horror)

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4. Adam Howe Gator Bait (Comet Press)

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5. Matt Manochio Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Horror)

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Anthologies and Collections

1. Savage Beasts (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Todd Keisling Ugly Little Things – Volume One (Precipice Books)

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3. Tony Knighton Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties (Crime Wave Press) 

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Today I am happy to welcome back Russell James to The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of Q Island (review), which is out now through Samhain Horror. If you are a fan of apocalyptic fiction, this is one book you will definitely want to add to your summer reading list. We talk about Q Island, his upcoming work and horror conventions. A big thank you to Russell 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!

Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker. 

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Thanks for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Russell, it is nice to have you back!

Thanks for having me back, Rich.

Q: What sort of events helped inspire you to create Q Island?

In 2008 I watched the events that unfolded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came ashore. Parts of the city were isolated, power out, communications disrupted. The scariest thing was how quickly the structure of society unraveled. Looting seemed to happen instantly. There were stories of people abandoning their public sector jobs to save themselves before others. I remember a nightmare scenario about people in a blacked-out hospital who were too sick to be moved, but caregivers had to evacuate. The Superdome became Hell-on-Earth. This was real life horror on a big scale.

I wondered what would happen on even a bigger scale, in a scenario where there wasn’t the knowledge that eventually, waters would recede and help would arrive. I thought about a quarantine, and hometown Long Island was the perfect candidate. A few bridges, a tunnel and some ferries were all that would kept people from getting out. Pretty easy to contain and all of a sudden millions of people have their own Katrina scenario.

Q: In the acknowledgements you mentioned that you started Q Island a few years ago and shelved the story for awhile. What prompted you to start writing it again and were there any major changes to the story from the initial version?

The world building aspect of the quarantine zone got overwhelming. Is there power and water? Who pays for that when hardly anyone can work? How are the seas sealed off? What about food? How are separated families managing? How quickly would the island run out of gasoline? Cell phone and Internet traffic would swamp the systems. It was just one thing after another, with me double thinking each scene to make sure that whatever the characters were doing would really be doable in that environment. I didn’t think I could keep it all straight for the year it usually takes to write a novel.

Then I read Quarantine by Joe McKinney, about a city in Texas isolated as a plague hot spot. He really pulled off the world-building well. That showed me it was possible, and while I’m no Joe McKinney, I thought I might be able to pull it off.

Q: The last time you stopped by The Horror Bookshelf to talk about Dreamwalker, you described yourself as a “seat-of-the-pants” writer. Q Island has a few different plot points taking place, was it difficult to keep them all moving forward and connected?

There are three plotlines in Q Island. One is Melanie Bailey trying to get her son Aiden safely off the island. The second in Dr. Samuel Bradshaw working with the CDC to find a cure in a makeshift lab at the closed JFK airport. The third is Jimmy Wade, a low-life crook who gets the opportunity to rise to the top of a criminal gang. Eventually, the stories all come together, but they were nearly unrelated in the beginning. I wrote chunks of them separately, then had to sequence the chapters so the stories unfolded in parallel. There was a lot of rearranging and rewriting so that the big picture of when quarantine drops, when supplies get short, when the military intervenes, all happened at the same time for everyone.

In the end, I lost a scene I really liked, where Dr. Bradshaw’s infected wife breeches JFK security. It just didn’t fit anymore.

Q: I loved your creation of the Paleovirus and its ability to infect people in a myriad of ways. Did you have any specific inspiration for the creation of the virus and its spreading mechanisms?

The Paleovirus mutates through its lifespan. Tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies are the most well-known physical species transformations. The gender of alligator egg embryos shift in relation to external temperature while they are in the nest. I just took those ideas down to a more cellular level. The spore manifestation let the virus spread much more quickly to accelerate the quarantine timeline.

Q: Speaking of the versatility of the virus and its ability to spread, I also thought the effects that manifested in the victims were pretty unique! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but while the victims display the same symptoms, it also has unique effects on each person. How did you come up with that idea?

It’s evolution. A million dead ends and a few successes. The virus did its last bit of dirty work tens of thousands of years ago on species now extinct. Now that it affects a new species, one with much more genetic diversity, a few outliers on the human genome bell curve will likely react differently. A few people in the story react VERY differently.

Q: The events of Q Island seem like they could take place over a few different books are there any sequels in the works? Possibly learning more about why the virus is so varied among its victims?

I’m 30,000 words into another novel set on Q Island. In this one, one main character, who was trapped off-island when the quarantine fell, has lost contact with his family and has to smuggle himself back in to help them. Life on the island has gotten even worse. The longer people exist without the framework of a moral society, the more depraved the scenario becomes. And it seems like evolution has indeed taken its next tentative step forward.

Q: One of the main characters in Q Island, Aiden, has autism spectrum disorder. What inspired you in creating Aiden’s character? Was it challenging for you to write?

Characters who seem useless or a burden can get very interesting when all of a sudden they are indispensable. People around them sudden realize, “Hey, that kid is a human being after all.” I wanted to have that happen here, and an autistic child is the kind of kid a lot of people just look at as an encumbrance they are glad they do not have to manage.

What did I know about autism? Nothing. But my wife knew it all. She is the principal of a private school for children with learning disabilities, almost all of them low and very low income. She’s had children all along the autism spectrum in her classrooms and worked with each parent on finding what their child needed to be successful. I spent an awful lot of time discussing Aiden’s character with her. The good news is it paid off because I’ve had a number of readers with autistic children tell that the portrayal rang very true.

Q: Put yourself into the shoes of a resident on Q Island. What would your plan be for survival?

It is all about self-sufficiency and security. Those two things are kind of mutually exclusive, because both are full time jobs. So people would have to band together to specialize in tasks. And I’m not trusting any of those crazy people trapped here with me. I’m kind of thinking sailboat, fishing tackle, and lots of firearms. Put some water between me and those Paleovirus victims.

Q: Similar to the previous question, based on a pure survival standpoint, which character of Q Island would you want to form an alliance with in the event of an outbreak?

I’m sticking with Tamara. She’s the kick-ass nurse who takes no crap from anyone and is so cool in an emergency that she can treat herself when she gets stabbed in the eye with a butterfly needle. She has medical skills, and her toughness is well-tempered with the compassion to apply those skills with care.

Q: Your next novel for Samhain is called The Portal and is scheduled for release next June. Is there anything you can tell readers about that?

The Portal is a return to seriously supernatural thrillers.

It seems that there is a device that can open a permanent doorway between Hell and Earth, and the two realities align to make that possible every three hundred years. The Portal is hidden in a small island community off the north Atlantic Coast and Satan has arrived to find it and open it up. Scott Tackett runs the hardware store and discovers a disconcerting family connection to the Portal. Allie Layton has limped home psychologically spent after a flame-out of a Hollywood career. These two former lovers see if they still have any common ground as they try to stop what would certainly be the end of the world. And the bad guys are sure lined up against them.

Q: You are going to be at Scares That Care in a few days. What are some of your favorite things about going to conventions?

I always go to horror cons, and the people are the greatest. Fans there are commonly characterized by non-attendees as sick, twisted weirdoes. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

They are people who love the genre, appreciate a scare, like to peer over into the dark side without actually stepping in. They get into the Halloween spirit out of season and wear some amazing homemade homages to their favorite characters. Everyone is just having a blast.

Now that I’ve been to a few cons more than once, I have returning fans that say how much they liked my last book and are back to buy an inscribed version of my latest release. That is just so amazing. I wrote for years with an audience of one, nearly every author does. When you finally get published, you wonder if the book will connect with people, if readers will enjoy it. Online reviews are a great boost, but inperson reviews can’t be beat.

Thanks again for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Russell! Is there anything else you would like to let readers know?

A good portion of horror readers cross over into sci-fi. If you are one of them, I’m in several anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders. One is space opera, the other two are time travel-themed. You can go to my Amazon page and see all of them. They are under a buck or free through Kindle Unlimited, so give them a try knowing that every cent of the royalties go to Doctors Without Borders the day after the monthly the Amazon deposit happens.

LINKS

Russell James’ Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Add Q Island on Goodreads

Purchase Q Island: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror

Q Island tour logo

About Q Island

Q Island is the sixth novel (a novella collection with three other authors makes seven) that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria! He’s also published various other books and short story collections that may be found on Amazon.

It’s an epidemic. An ancient virus is loose on Long Island, NY. Its black-veined victims become sociopathic killers, infecting others through body fluids or a post mortem release of spores. Chaos rules. The island is quarantined.

Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden are trapped. Aiden is bitten, but survives. He might be the key to a cure, if she can escape what the world now calls Q Island. Further east, gang leader Jimmy Wade has also survived infection, and become telepathic with a taste for human flesh.

Wade sets his followers on a search for the immune boy who can make him a god, if only Wade can consume him. A scrappy, one-eyed nurse and a retired pipeline technician agree to help Melanie escape, but it’s a long shot that they can avoid the infected, Wade’s tightening grip and a military ordered to keep everyone on Q Island.

Praise for Russell R. James

“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”

Library Journal on Black Magic

(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”

Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration

“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”

Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration

James fills the novel with compete characters that are easy to care about and cheer for (or against) when appropriate. There is a very strong human element to the novel that allows the reader to sink into the story and become involved in its events.”

The Examiner

Dreamwalker is the first Russell James novel that I have had the pleasure to read and it was an absolute blast! I am definitely looking forward to exploring his previous and upcoming works. There is something for everyone in this novel – action, horror, fantasy and a hint of romance. Highly recommended!”

The Horror Bookshelf

“This could very well be the best horror novel of the year.”

Examiner on Q Island

About Russell James

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has several horror short story collections, including Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness, as well as some science fiction collections. Now, Q Island, released July 7, 2015 and he’s already under contract for his next book for 2016.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.” He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.

Giveaway

Rafflecoper giveaway for two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker. Two winners will each win one code for a free audio book, open everywhere. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends August 31, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Rafflecopter Code to Enter:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b19/?

 

 

QIsland

BOOK INFO

Length: 327 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Release Date: July 7, 2015

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

Earlier this year I reviewed Russell James’ Dreamwalker, a book about the dreamwalker Pete and his struggle to save the real world and the dream world from the evil presence of Jean St. Croix.  It was the first novel of Russell’s that I read and I had an absolute blast following Pete’s adventures. What I liked about the novel besides a unique premise, was James’ ability to create interesting characters and the impressive world-building that went into Twin Moon City. It was through Dreamwalker that I became a fan of James’ work and when I heard he was releasing a book about an ancient virus epidemic, I knew I had to give it a read!

In Q Island, an ancient virus that was entombed below a sheet of ice for thousands of years has been unleashed across Long Island and has plunged the city into chaos. Those who are infected with the virus develop black veins and an insatiable desire to kill and cause destruction in their path. The virus manifests itself much like the flu in some ways with fever, bloodshot eyes, headaches, red streaks on the skin and dark veins. The virus turns the infected incredibly violent and they can achieve superhuman strength for brief periods of time. The disease sends people into a hyper violent mode in order to better spread the disease.

As the island begins to descend into complete chaos and insanity, the government quarantines the island in an effort to keep the virus in check which traps Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden on the island. Despite numerous close calls and deadly run-ins with the infected, Aiden is able to survive the infection. He may be the key to curing the Paleovirus, but only if Melanie and her friends are able to get him off the island.

On the other side of the island, Jimmy Wade is embracing the changes on Q Island. Before the outbreak of the Paleovirus, Jimmy was just a scrawny, small-time criminal who was at the mercy of mobster Madman Mozelle. Now, Jimmy has risen through the ranks of the underworld to lead a gang seeking to rule Q Island. He has survived the infection of the virus, but becomes increasingly violent and has a penchant for feasting on the brains of his victims. When he learns of Aiden’s ability to survive the virus, he launches a manhunt to track him down. Jimmy believes consuming his brain will make him immortal. As Jimmy begins closing in on Melanie and Aiden, they must rely on each other and their allies in an attempt to escape Q Island.

There is a large cast of characters in Q Island and James is able to weave their individual plot-lines together flawlessly into a compulsively readable story. Whether you are reading about Melanie and Aiden’s struggle to survive, Jimmy Wade’s violent rise as a criminal warlord or Dr. Bradshaw’s quest for answers about the Paleovirus, each story-line is riveting and there is not a dull moment to be found in the entirety of Q Island.

My favorite thing about Q Island is the unique creation of the virus. I have read a ton of apocalyptic fiction where a virus gets out and it usually spreads much like you would expect, through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. James’ Paleovirus, however, is a nasty creation that has multiple ways of spreading. I don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll just say that even if you are able to survive the superhuman psychopaths roaming the streets that are infected by the virus, you better hope you aren’t in the area after you take one down!

Not only did I enjoy the way the virus was developed, but I thought James’ portrayal of the infected was unique and pretty terrifying. When I originally read the synopsis for Q Island months ago, I thought that the virus was going to more or less turn people into zombies. While I wouldn’t have minded that approach, I was pleasantly surprised that James’ decided to go in a different direction with this book. While the virus transforms them into bloodthirsty maniacs who are technically dead, they do not lose all of their human attributes. They are still aware of their actions and have the ability to develop strategies and work in teams, which is what makes them so lethal.

Q Island was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I am happy to say it was everything I hoped it would be. It is full of great characters that you can’t help but root for (well, except for Jimmy) and offers plenty of action-packed scenes that will thrill fans of just about any genre. If you are have an interest in apocalyptic fiction, Q Island is an essential addition to your reading list!

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win one of two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker, courtesy of Russell James and Hook of a Book Media & Publicity

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Russell James’ Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Add Q Island on Goodreads

Purchase Q Island: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror

Q Island tour logo

About Q Island

Q Island is the sixth novel (a novella collection with three other authors makes seven) that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria! He’s also published various other books and short story collections that may be found on Amazon.

It’s an epidemic. An ancient virus is loose on Long Island, NY. Its black-veined victims become sociopathic killers, infecting others through body fluids or a post mortem release of spores. Chaos rules. The island is quarantined.

Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden are trapped. Aiden is bitten, but survives. He might be the key to a cure, if she can escape what the world now calls Q Island. Further east, gang leader Jimmy Wade has also survived infection, and become telepathic with a taste for human flesh.

Wade sets his followers on a search for the immune boy who can make him a god, if only Wade can consume him. A scrappy, one-eyed nurse and a retired pipeline technician agree to help Melanie escape, but it’s a long shot that they can avoid the infected, Wade’s tightening grip and a military ordered to keep everyone on Q Island.

Praise for Russell R. James

“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”

Library Journal on Black Magic

(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”

Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration

“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”

Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration

James fills the novel with compete characters that are easy to care about and cheer for (or against) when appropriate. There is a very strong human element to the novel that allows the reader to sink into the story and become involved in its events.”

The Examiner

Dreamwalker is the first Russell James novel that I have had the pleasure to read and it was an absolute blast! I am definitely looking forward to exploring his previous and upcoming works. There is something for everyone in this novel – action, horror, fantasy and a hint of romance. Highly recommended!”

The Horror Bookshelf

“This could very well be the best horror novel of the year.”

Examiner on Q Island

About Russell James

writer's stop1

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has several horror short story collections, including Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness, as well as some science fiction collections. Now, Q Island, released July 7, 2015 and he’s already under contract for his next book for 2016.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.” He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.

Giveaway

Rafflecoper giveaway for two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker. Two winners will each win one code for a free audio book, open everywhere. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends August 31, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Rafflecopter Code to Enter:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b19/?

Today I am happy to have Samhain Horror author Russell James on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview following the release of his stellar new novel Dreamwalker (review). Also, be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of Russell’s previous novels! A huge thanks to Russell for answering my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!

writer's stop1

I have read in other interviews that you got your start in writing through joining a writing class. Do you still belong to a literary group and if so how has that helped you in your writing career?

I am still a member of the Minnows Literary Group and it has been a great experience. We give each other feedback on novels and short stories we send out for submission, and we collaborate on sci-fi benefit anthologies. Our latest anthology STILL OUT OF TIME has been in the Amazon Top 25 Anthology list since it came out and has earned a nice sum for Doctors Without Borders.

Our group works for several reasons. The first is that it is honest. If something doesn’t flow for one of us, we will talk about it, politely, professionally. The second is that the group is diverse. We are a stock broker, a Broadway musician, a homesteader, a legal assistant, a tech writer for a Fortune 50 company, and a full time writer. We live in two countries, and in locations as dissimilar as New York City and rural Idaho. Everyone adds a different perspective during feedback. I embrace the recommendations that hit home, and even the ones that don’t force me to mentally defend my writing decisions. I’ll admit losing a few of those internal arguments.

All my teammates there have given me excellent writing coaching, and I do consider us a team.
All of your novels have been published through Samhain Horror, which is one of my favorite publishers. How did you end up joining Samhain?

During a writing class, the instructor mentioned that Samhain had an open call for horror novels with a new top-notch editor, Don D’Auria. I had just finished a fourth novel manuscript that had yet to make the rounds for agent and publisher rejections. I thought “Well, might as well get rejected by one of the best.” So I sent DARK INSPIRATION off. The note came that it was accepted and I literally fell to my knees, breathless. Since then, the excellent thing about Samhain is the feeling of family from the organization and other authors. Don is excellent to work with and I’m happy to always send the next novel manuscript there first.
One of the things that I loved about Dreamwalker is that even though there are elements of interacting with dreams, parallel worlds and evil spirits, the story still feels realistic because Pete also faces very real danger in the real world. Was it challenging to blend the two elements together?

Creating Dreamwalker was like writing half the book as a straight up thriller, even though both realities intersect and impact each other. When Pete is in Twin Moon City, my imagination could run wild with zombies driving Jeeps and spirits spinning nightmares in a castle. But once Pete reawakens in Atlantic City, I had to switch mental gears and be sure everything was grounded and believable. Locations had to ring true to life, drug lord Jean St. Croix had be threatening without becoming cartoonish and outsized. It was work, but I really enjoyed the detail of setting up the parallel worlds.

I loved the world building that takes place in the novel, particularly the dream realm of Twin Moon City. What was the inspiration behind the depiction of this city in the dream world? Was it difficult fleshing out the details to create such a vivid world or did it just come naturally?

I wish I knew where Twin Moon City came from so I could go back to that well for more future inspiration. I think that place is cool. To read about. Being stuck there would be hell. Some of the feel for the place came from watching newsreels from Europe just after World War II, where whole cities were devastated. People were still cleaning up that mess in the 1950’s. The more time I spent in Twin Moon City in my head, the more details came about. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so that’s how things go in my process.

While Dreamwalker ends on a pretty definitive note, there are elements of the story that seem like they could expand into future books. Do you have any plans to continue Pete’s story and/or other people who may share similar gifts?

I wasn’t planning on it, but a few ideas have surfaced. Pete and Rayna’s story could certainly have another chapter. And if Cauquemere had his parallel realm, there may certainly be others. We’ll see if a lot of people want to read more.

How did you get inspired to use voodoo as a central element in Dreamwalker?

I had the idea of making dreaming important in the story, and started doing some research on dream mythology. The story of the petraloa spirit Cauquemere and his delivery of nightmares fit right onto what I had in mind, and voodoo joined the cast of characters.

In your afterword, you mention that you did a lot of research regarding voodoo while writing Dreamwalker. What was it like delving into that world?

Scary as hell. Imagined horror, like vampires, werewolves, space aliens, those are all fictional exercises. I can write those with a bit of detachment. Real life supernatural stuff, like Ouija boards, ghosts and hauntings, and I’ll toss documented demonic possession in there, those things set my hair on end. Voodoo did that big time. For Haiti to legally ban it gives it a legitimacy that tarot cards and séances just don’t have. I believe that voodoo reaches over into a darker plane of our world, as other practices do. It concerned me enough that while all the voodoo practices described in the book are documentedin my research, I altered bits to keep the book from being a how-to manual. I don’t want that on my conscience.

What is a typical day of writing like for you?

My favorite writing day is to get up a few hours after most people go to bed, exercise, and then start writing before the sun even comes up. I quit for lunch, do something physical for a while, then do a few more hours in the afternoon. That is an excellent 3000+ word day. What do I usually get? An hour or two before or after the day job each day.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

I grew up reading King and Koontz and Serling and Matheson, so that pretty much pigeon-holed me into an appreciation of the horror genre. There is something alluring about exploring the darker side of humanity, and existence in general, through fiction. I love that moment when a chill races up your spine.

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

Recently I had a story make a big impact. I had an idea for an apocalyptic novel where Long Island, NY becomes a quarantine zone for a resurrected virus that turns people into psychopathic killers. Part way onto that, the whole world-building process seemed too overwhelming, and I shelved it. Later, I read Joe McKinney’s excellent QUARANTINE about cops solving a murder in plague-ridden, quarantined San Antonio. I’m no Joe McKinney, but it showed me how that kind of world-building could be done. So I dusted off the file and went back to work. The finished product, Q ISLAND comes out in June.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate with, who would you choose and why?

I’ve done two kinds of collaborations. The first was around a theme. I was one of four winners in Samhain Horror’s Gothic-themed novella contest. JG Faherty, Devon Govaere, Catherine Cavendish and I all had novellas published in one book called WHAT WAITS IN THE SHADOWS. We all worked together a lot after that on cross promotion.

The second kind of collaboration is much more direct. Janet Guy, Kelly Horn, Teresa Robeson, Paul Siluch and Belinda Whitney are my critique group members who create the short story benefit anthologies. Each author in the collection heavily critiques the work of the other five, and I respect all of them so much. All the short stories in those collections certainly were enhanced through suggestions by those great folks. Our first collection OUT OF TIME has sold strong for two years and earned thousands for Doctors Without Borders, so that testifies to the quality the cooperative effort delivers.

I think a novel would be tough to collaborate on. I’m a seat-of-the pants writer, so I don’t fully know where the story is going while I’m writing it. I think I’d torture another writer putting him through that.

What other stories are you currently working on?

I have a manuscript about Satan trying to find a lost portal to Hell that had been hidden by 18th century witches. He puts a town under siege to find it. One couple might be able to stop him, but Satan had a corrupt police chief and some dedicated mercenaries on his side. There also seems to be a few problems with the town’s pets turning killer. Another family classic in the making.

I’ll also be in another benefit sci-fi anthology RETURN TO CENTAURI STATION in June and time travel collection FOREVER OUT OF TIME in December.

Thanks for answering my questions Russell and I am definitely looking forward to your next book!

Dreamwalker tour logo

 Giveaway

1. Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to hookofabook@hotmail.com will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.

2. Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b16/?

About Russell James

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.

dreamwalker

BOOK INFO

Length: 274 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

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

Dreamwalker follows college student Pete Holm as he struggles with a unique set of powers. Pete has very vivid dreams that seem to be almost real and unlike most people who experience multiple dreams and storylines, Pete often times has dreams that continue right where they left off the previous night. He is also always aware of what is happening in his dreams. The one constant of his dreams is a mysterious girl who appears in every single dream of his. Pete dubs her Dream Girl and never can figure out why she is the only constant in his dreams. He has a connection with her that eludes him when it comes to the other people that he encounters in his dreams. Although there is normally danger, Pete always escapes unharmed and they only occur in certain types of dreams. However, one night when Pete is in his mansion, he encounters a terrifying snakelike creature that almost swallows him alive.

Pete also has Visual Processing Disorder, which scrambles what he sees on his way to his brain and creates anxiety. Though Pete was able to get a handle on his disorder through tutoring and therapy, the concepts he encounters in his business classes at Ithaca overwhelm him and send him into a tailspin. Lately, Pete’s VPD has been getting worse. Instead of just causing confusion, he begins seeing words that jump out to him often focusing on a singular theme such as the sea and cards. Pete finally reaches his breaking point and decides to leave everything he has ever known deciding he needs a break from the stress. Pete finally discovers that the recent patterns in his VPD are telling him something and sets off for Atlantic City.

When Pete arrives, he realizes that he is stranded and an outsider. The glitz of the casinos and the boardwalk clash with the gritty side of the of the city and Pete realizes that he needs a plan in order to survive. Pete picks up a part-time job and apartment through a chance meeting with the owner of DiStephano’s restaurant. Pete’s dreams continue while in Atlantic City, although now they seem to come with more purpose. These are not seemingly random dreams, but ones that seem to be telling him something.

The other story thread focuses on Prosperidad, a fortune-teller who picks up on Pete’s presence. Her client, Jean St. Croix, is infuriated when she tells him a dreamwalker has arrived in the city and may place his plans in jeopardy. Jean St. Croix is a vicious crime lord who plans to control the city through the drug trade and utilizes extreme brutality to set his domination underway. Prosperidad asked the Antelope Spirit to send someone who could stop St. Croix and it seems Pete may just be the key to achieving that goal.

As Pete begins to realize the frightening truth behind his dreams, he finds himself in a fight for his life. In the real world, Pete is on the run from St. Croix and his crew of henchmen while in the dream world he is hunted by the evil petra loa spirit Cauquemere and his legion of blood-thirsty undead soldiers. Armed with his new-found abilities and some help from Dream Girl aka Rayna and Prosperidad, Pete attempts to end the terror in both worlds.

One of the most impressive things about James’ novel is the world building that takes place, particularly his creation of Twin Moon City. The city seems normal at first complete brownstone buildings and a street lined with streetlights, but quickly takes on a darker appearance. Everything is in ruins with smashed out windows, holes littering the walls of the building, debris littering the streets and the stench of death hanging heavy in the air. James’s descriptive prose helps breathe life into this apocalyptic city. I also liked how even though there are elements of interacting with dreams, parallel worlds and evil spirits, the story still feels realistic because of the dangers Pete faces in the real world.

Dreamwalker is the first Russell James novel that I have had the pleasure to read and it was an absolute blast! I am definitely looking forward to exploring his previous and upcoming works. There is something for everyone in this novel – action, horror, fantasy and a hint of romance. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Russell James’ Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Purchase Dreamwalker on Amazon