Posts Tagged ‘The End in All Beginnings’

I am excited to announce that today I am hosting a guest post from John F.D. Taff as part of his blog tour for his stellar novella collection, The End in All Beginnings, which is out now through Grey Matter Press . If you are curious to see what I thought of his collection (even though the word “stellar” should give it away) and happened to miss my review, you can check that out here. John is one of my favorite authors and those of you who are longtime readers may know that John was one of the very first authors featured on this blog when it launched. So, it is an honor to have him as a guest poster on The Horror Bookshelf! I want to thank John, Tony and everyone at Grey Matter Press for asking me to take part in the media tour. I hope you enjoy learning about the inspiration behind the stories in this collection and be sure to enter the giveaway for an e-copy of The End in all Beginnings following the guest post!

eiabadvance_panelcover

I thought I’d wind up this blog tour for The End in All Beginnings here at The Horror Bookshelf by getting a little more personal. Yep, that’s right, by letting you get a little glimpse into the person that wrote the stories.

Anyway, I thought I’d walk through each of the stories and discuss why I wrote them and what they mean to me. I’ll try to make it a bit different than the notes about the stories found at the back of The End in All Beginnings, so that you get a little different insight.

“What Becomes God”

First, I like the title of this story…a lot. I chose it for its ambiguity. It can be read any number of ways, and each of the different meanings it has are all applicable to the story. That makes me smile. I spend a great deal of time on naming stories, because I think that the title (in the best of all possible worlds) should give you some insight into the story. I have my fair share of stories that are titled, simply, “The _______,” but you should view those as defeats, at least in my case. Sometimes my stories don’t come right out and slap you across the face with their meaning, so I like the title to provide a clue.

That said, “What Becomes God” is a tribute not just to my childhood, but childhood in general. My childhood was spent in your average suburban tract house neighborhood, carved out of a gigantic, ancient woods that stretched for miles to the Missouri River. You know the type? Most of the houses on postage-stamp-size lawns. Most of the houses of the ranch variety. Most of the houses look the same. Nary a tree in sight, at least mature ones, because the developers ripped them all down to put up the subdivision. Sure, you know the type.

Lots of young families in that neighborhood, lots of kids my age, and we spent a lot of time together in those woods—hiking, playing, exploring. I had a great group of friends, and I borrowed much of those memories for this story. Particularly I wanted to explore the theme of friendship at that age, because I don’t think we ever have friendships that are that deep or open afterward. No, as we grow older, other forces shape our friendships—puberty, high school, social pressures, jobs, families, etc. But at the age of the characters in the story—you know, around 10-12 years old—it’s a lot less complicated. It’s that uncomplicated friendship I think we’ve all experienced that I wanted to recapture.

And, of course, what you’d do to save that friendship, that friend.

That’s what the whole story hinges on, at least to me. And that’s where its power is. Sure there’s the whole religion/sacrifice thing going on, but to me the heart of the story is simple: friendship. As I grow older, I hang on to my friends all the more closely. It’s a relationship every bit as important to me as spouse or family, and when I realized that I wanted to portray that in the story, that’s when the horror became apparent to me.

What would you do…what would you sacrifice for a friend? And should you?

“Object Permanence”

Here’s the story in the collection that you either get or you don’t. I’m constantly making comparisons between horror writers and comedy writers. We’re similar in that we both want you to “get” it. And if you don’t, there’s no amount of explaining that will help.

“Object Permanence” is a story that sort of carries on the same theme as “What Becomes God,” which is to hang or to let go. All of our decisions in life, it seems to me, can be divided into these two camps. So, obviously, charting a course through life boils down to knowing when to do one or the other. Hanging on too long is problematic, but letting go too soon is no better a choice.

I think memory is a terrific thing. You have, stored up in the great vaults of your head, memories of all the wonderful and awful things that have ever happened to you. Some are great to haul out, dust off and relive every once in a while—birthday parties, first dates, kisses, successes. But I also think that, as we grow older, a certain golden light begins to creep in and make our memories seem a great deal more attractive than how the actual events really were.

That’s when nostalgia becomes that old folks’ whining that times were much better when they were young. Or the old-age belief that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because kids’ hair is too long, skirts are too short, pants are sagging, morals are degenerating or America is going down the dumpster. That’s using memory in a negative, destructive way that I wanted to explore in a story.

“Object Permanence” took that idea and magnified it a thousand-fold. What if there were people who could hold everything in their memory just as it was, keeping everything in the real world set, static, never changing. Sounds great on the surface, but when you really start to think about it, that kind of nostalgia is poisonous. Extrapolating that out, sometimes nostalgia in general is poisonous, because it sometimes prevents you from seeing how good the world has become…or that things weren’t really all that wonderful back in the good old days.

That’s the whole point of the story, to remind us old people that the times, they are a’changing, and we’re better off respecting that.

“Love in the Time of Zombies”

Ok, the funnier story. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t do zombies often. I really don’t do classic horror monsters often, because…well, because who cares, really? I mean, they’re mostly overdone, mostly other people’s ideas. If I can’t bring something new to the table, why bother. So mostly, I leave them alone.

So, the zombies in this story aren’t what the story’s about. They’re background noise; something for the two main characters to play against. The story is about unrequited love. As with the universal theme of childhood friendship I explored in “What Becomes God,” I thought that most people have gone through a bout or two of unrequited love in their lives. Remember that Dan Fogelberg song, “Auld Lang Syne?” (Sorry for putting that earworm in your head…and that’s a hint about an upcoming story of mine in another Grey Matter Press collection.) If the line “Just for a moment I was back in school/And felt that old, familiar pain” doesn’t cause your breathing to hitch a little, then you, sir or madam, are dead beyond reviving.

Who among us hasn’t loved someone where that love wasn’t returned at the same level or at all? That’s a pain that is unique in its feeling, but universal in its application. And why wouldn’t it be? I mean, for all the serious studying and researching, we’re no closer to understanding love than was Bill

Shakespeare or the cavemen. So we think we can control it? Yeah, right.

“Love in the Time of Zombies,” despite its undead setting, is really all about that single problem. How do we control with whom we fall in love? Answer: despite how troubling it is, we can’t.

“The Long, Long Breakdown”

More of the holding on/letting go argument, this time between a father and a daughter at the end of the world. And despite the apocalyptic setting, the story’s not about the flooding or the mass extinction of mankind. Nope, it’s the smaller-scale story, the tug-of-war between a father trying to hold on and a daughter desperately wanting to be let go.

You have kids? I do. As they grow older you begin to think, quite seriously, about the world they’ll be inheriting. You think of all of the bad things that are out there, all of the seemingly worse on the horizon. And you worry…you worry about this broken world you’re set to give them.

But, and here’s the thing, they’re not looking at the world like that at all. They’re probably eager to get to it, anxious to get out there and explore and experience. They see the horizon, the same horizon that you do, and in their world, the sun’s coming up, not going down.

The appealing part of this story, to an older gentleman like me, is the fact that we senior citizens don’t necessarily have to relegate ourselves to the trash heap in order to step aside and let our children retain their wide-eyed engagement with the world. We serve a purpose, if we’ll just get out of our own way and accept it. And that purpose is to act as a bridge for our children, from the old world to the new. That kind of thought gives me some comfort in my old age.

“Visitation”

This one’s a sort of quasi-sci-fi, quasi-ghost story. Here’s where I get to share my love of science fiction with you. I started reading the usual sources—Seuss, the Berenstain Bears, Scholastic books—but progressed from there in this manner: comic books to science fiction to fantasy to horror. But I spent a lot of time in science fiction, reading everything from Heinlein to Asimov, from Bradbury to Clarke.

Along the way, I read a lot of science fiction that crossed the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy. My two favorites are Jack Vance and Robert Silverberg, especially Vance’s The Dying Planet and The Demon Princes, and Silverberg’s Majipoor series. I like the ’50s gee-whiz, aww-shucks patina these two authors’ stories have. A lot of science fiction these days has kind of lost that feeling, and that’s too bad. I wanted this story to harken back to those old science fiction tales, to have that feeling that science fiction can still evoke an innocent kind of awe, at least on some level.

I still love science fiction, though mainly on TV or in movies. I’m a big Star Trek fan, though not quite so much of the two newest movies. Loved the darker incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. But reading science fiction has lost something for me. I think all of the darker, dystopian sci-fi is great, but I still long for those earlier, rosier styles of science fiction where we looked out on the great unknown with more wonder and a little less weariness.

And that’s it. Stop by and see me sometime at johnfdtaff.com or follow me on Twitter @johnfdtaff. And you haven’t gotten a copy of The End in All Beginnings yet, why are you waiting? Pick up a copy today.

John F.D. Taff

ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS!

I am giving away a free e-copy of John’s novella collection to one lucky winner courtesy of the awesome people over at Grey Matter Press. All you have to do is enter at the Rafflecopter page and a winner will be announced on the 27th!

About John F.D. Taff

johnfdtaff

John F.D. Taff has published more than 70 short stories in markets that include Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, Big Pulp, Postscripts to Darkness, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear  and Shock Rock II.   Over the years, six of his short stories have been named honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror.

His first collection, Little Deaths,  was published in 2012 and has been well-reviewed by critics and readers alike. The collection appeared on the Bram Stoker Reading List, has been the No. 1 Bestseller at Amazon in the Horror/Short Stories category and was named the No. 1 Horror Collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk.   Taff’s The Bell Witch  is a historical novel inspired by the events of a real-life haunting and was released in August 2013. His thriller Kill/Off  was published in December 2013.

Taff’s short story “Show Me” is featured in the Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthology from Grey Matter Press, DARK VISIONS: A Collection of Modern Horror – Volume One.   His tale that breathes new life into the zombie apocalypse, “Angie,” appears in the Grey Matter Press volume OMINOUS REALITIES: The Anthology of Dark Speculative Horrors.   His “Some Other Day” will be published inDEATH’S REALM,  coming from Grey Matter Press in October.

More information about John F.D. Taff is available at http://www.johnfdtaff.com.

eiabadvance_panelcover

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 319 Pages

John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the summer ever since it was announced in late April by Grey Matter Press. The collection of five new novellas from Taff made its debut at this years World Horror Convention  months before its late summer scheduled release date, but I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought I would have to wait a few more months to snag a copy, so I was ecstatic when Grey Matter Press made a few of the autographed Special Advance Edition copies available for order on their website.

The cover of The End In All Beginnings describes the novellas as “emotional horrors” and I think that term sums them perfectly with their focus on themes like love, life and death. The collection’s first story, “What Becomes God”, is a perfect introduction to the emotional wringer the reader is about to go through. Focusing on a boy named Brian, “What Becomes God” is a heartbreaking tale that shows the lengths a person will go to in order to try to save their friend. Taff does an excellent job of capturing childhood in this story, detailing how Brian would spend all day outside until dinner during the summer playing kickball, exploring the woods and generally spending the entire day hanging out with friends. The story grabbed me immediately because these scenes reminded me of how I spent my childhood and Taff captures that feeling of magical freedom perfectly.

Even without the dark twist toward the end of the story, “What Becomes God” is pretty terrifying. I was telling my wife about the story (before I made it to the story’s plot twist) and she said something along the lines of “That doesn’t sound like horror, I thought you said it was a horror book?” While everyone is entitled to their own opinion as to what constitutes horror, my immediate response was what is scarier than facing death at a young age and being powerless to do anything?

One of the things that makes The End In All Beginnings such a great collection is Taff’s ability to take familiar horror creatures and inject new life into them with brilliant twists. “Love In The Time Of Zombies” is an absolute must-read for any zombie fan as Taff manages to break new ground while still keeping the blood, guts and everything else people love about zombies intact. Taff also blends in some science-fiction with “Visitation”, a powerful story that puts an original spin on the traditional ghost story.

Picking a favorite from The End In All Beginnings is virtually impossible, but if I were forced to choose right now, I would have to go with  “The Long, Long Breakdown”. Detailing the life of a father and his daughter in a post-apocalyptic Florida in which flood waters have devastated the area, Taff paints a portrait of a parent-child relationship that instantly reminded me of the emotional narrative of one of my favorite novels, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the post-apocalyptic setting will appeal to fans of the genre, the real power comes from the portrayal of how even when society has changed forever, the dynamic between a parent and their child remains the same.

This is truly one of the best collection of novellas I have read in a while and will definitely be in the running for one of my favorite reads of the year. I feel like this collection will not only appeal to horror fans, but could interest readers of just about any genre. So, whether you are looking for introduction to the world of horror or are already a seasoned horror fanatic, you will definitely want to give The End In All Beginnings a read!

Rating: 5/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

Order The End In All Beginnings – Special Advance Edition (These are limited and come signed by the author, so order one soon before they sell out!)

I am back again with the second installment of my most anticipated summer reads! It seems like I just posted the first installment,  but time seems to be flying by with summer  just around the corner and I still have TONS of books I want to write about. The last batch included novels from Stephen King, Hunter Shea and Brian Moreland. This time around I will be featuring John F.D. Taff, Tim Curran and Stephen Lloyd Jones!

eiabadvance_panelcover

John F.D. Taff The End In All Beginnings (Late Summer) from Grey Matter Press

I am a relatively new fan of Taff’s, but this one has rocketed right to the top of my list after it was announced by Grey Matter Press due to how much I loved his novel The Bell Witch and his story “Angie” in Ominous Realities. The End In All Beginnings will feature five new novellas that, according to the folks at Grey Matter Press, “explore the painful, emotional horrors of life, love and loss through the ages”. Sign me up!

blackout

Tim Curran Blackout (August 2014) from Dark Fuse

While summer usually conjures images of pool parties, barbecues and warm, beautiful weather, there is also a less pleasant side to most people’s favorite season.  I am talking about the huge storms complete with downpours, thunder and lightning. It is not unusual to lose power for long periods of time after lightening lights up the sky and the booms of thunder rattle your windows. At most, this is a minor annoyance. However, Tim Curran’s upcoming novella for Dark Fuse takes this mundane scenario and dials up the horror by throwing in tentacles that snatch people into the sky at random. I imagine that the first time a big storm rolls through town after I read this novella, I will be absolutely scared out of my mind and fighting with my wife over who gets to hold the flashlight (though I doubt that would be a good defense against airborne tentacles).

stringdiaries

Stephen Lloyd Jones The String Diaries (July 1, 2014) from Mulholland Books

The String Diaries follows a woman named Hannah as she attempts to outrun a centuries-old man who has the horrifying ability to take on the persona of any person he wants, including Hannah’s loved ones. Throw in a pile of mysterious diaries that have been passed down for over 200 years within Hannah’s family that supposedly hold the clues to surviving this monster and this has all the makings of a book that will probably rule my life from the minute I start it.

The story is said to jump from present day all the way to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century and I love books that do that because in addition to being a huge horror fan, I am also a bit of a history nerd. I know very little about The String Diaries other than what is in the official synopsis, but it kind of reminds me of Elizabeth Kostova’s brilliant 2005 novel The Historian.

eiabadvance_panelcover

Grey Matter Press announced today that a special Advance Edition of John F.D. Taff’s The End In All Beginnings, will be available at this year’s World Horror Convention which is set to take place May 8 through May 11 in Portland, Oregon. The collection contains five new novellas from Taff that “explore the painful, emotional horrors of life, love and loss through the ages”. They will be limited in number, so if you are attending the convention make sure you snag a copy, otherwise you will have to wait until July or August like the rest of us! Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the convention, so I guess this gives me another reason to be jealous of those who are going and/or people who get to live in an awesome city like Portland.

The titles of the novellas included are “What Becomes God,” “Object Permanence,” “Love in the Time of Zombies,” “The Long, Long Breakdown” and “Visitation”. Grey Matter Press has outdone themselves again with this one; the cover looks amazing and rumor has it each story was assigned a tarot card illustration, which is a pretty cool idea. Taff is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers (I only recently discovered his work, but so far everything I have read of his has been outstanding). I strongly encourage those who are attending to grab a copy of this, whether you are already a fan or not, because it is sure to be an outstanding collection!

Check out Grey Matter Press’ press release to learn more and see what Jonathan Mayberry(!) had to say about The End In All Beginnings.

thebellwitch

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon