C.J. West's blog
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David Bernstein's Blog
David Berstein's Blog
Adam Cesare's blog
Adam Cesare's blog
John Everson's Blog
John Everson's Blog
Brian Moreland's Blog
Brian Moreland's Blog
Brian Pinkerton's Blog
Brian Pinkerton's Blog
Debbi Mack's Blog
My inviter: Debbi Mack's Mid-List Life Blog
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Dying Days (Audio)
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The Music of CHIEF
DID NOT FINISH for Kindle
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Rough Cut (paperback)
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Dead of Winter
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Forest of Shadows
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Lupo's World ~ A Blog
April 6, 2013
The recent epidemic of sudden or sudden-appearing deaths among friends, acquaintances, fellow writers, and revered celebrities (of whom legendary film critic Roger Ebert is only the latest), has set off another bout of depressing thought patterns, self-doubt, and contemplation of mortality. As I approach a telling milestone in age (and the one you're thinking of I've already passed), I find myself once again nervously watching the sands running all too smoothly, all too quickly through the hourglass. I find myself once again questioning, wondering, criticizing… trying to understand just what it is I've done with my life.
We all do it, don't we? Come on, fess up. As you get older, don't you look around and see what you've built, check to see whether it'll withstand the passage of time and carry your name forward into the future? Of course, if you've had children, you can make a checkmark on the plus-list. If, like me, you haven't brought anyone into the world, then you have little choice but to look at what else you've done and, much more uncomfortably, what you might have done.
I've brought some words into the world, not all of them great or memorable, most of them probably not memorable, really, some bound up in covers and called books. Others called stories and articles and book reviews. Some of them are even good, maybe one or two I'd consider great by some arcane standard. Most are passable, worthy of a satisfied "huh!" and not much else. Some of the fiction may be briefly interesting, though memorable is probably a stretch. But ultimately, the dead-bottom assessment is that all of it might as well not exist, that its lack of being in the world would not be missed pretty much by anyone. Perhaps if movies and television had been birthed from it, there would be more of what one could self-servingly call a "legacy," but without this form of immortalization, it's safe to say the words I've put into order (even those that make some sense and evoke some emotion or response besides unintentional humor) are all rather pedestrian and disposable.
While others were out in the world helping fight hunger and disease, or building homes for refugees, or trying to stop wars and tribal conflicts, or handing out meals to the homeless, or trying to educate those starving for knowledge, or trying to keep kids safe from violence and drugs, or attempting to provide for humans in need… while all that was going on, what I chose to do with my life was to put some words together so they could be read and forgotten, disposed of, consumed. Maybe enjoyed, I hope they've been enjoyable. Maybe they've brought some small measure of happiness or pleasure, or a laugh, or a smirk and a curse, maybe they've disturbed and offended. All those responses are acceptable, even desirable, for a writer of what is essentially a luxury – a small modicum of fantasy in an increasingly negative, predatory, and uncaring world.
Upon hearing the news of Roger Ebert's death, something attributed to him found its way to me through Facebook or maybe Goodreads, I'm not sure, and gave me a way to perhaps look in a more positive light upon the choice of what I chose to do in life.
Roger Ebert wrote: “I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”
Well, I have tried, and I continue to try, and that is the best I can do. If entertaining others to distract them from the realities of their own lives is a noble pursuit, then at least I've nobly attempted to do so – no matter how narrow the audience or small the appreciation. And on wrap-up day, that'll have to be sufficient.
Thanks, Roger Ebert, for the many years of entertaining reviews. I remember the earliest days on local public television. I watched, on and off, for decades. When renting tapes became all the rage, I had two books to consult, Roger Ebert's and Leonard Maltin's. I usually went with Roger. As much as I liked both him and Siskel, I usually agreed with Roger (with some notable exceptions). And when I discovered him on-line, Roger's Facebook and Twitter feeds became routine must-reads. I loved checking out his New Yorker cartoon caption entries and comparing them with mine. And now he's given me something positive to latch onto. Farewell, Roger Ebert.
The balcony is closed.
December 26, 2012
The title of this blog may have you thinking about the recent cannibalism events in the United States. And you may love The Walking Dead on television or even the movie Zombieland and you may be conjuring Hollywood’s version of flesh-eating zombies. I’m personally a fan of the movie and the television series, but I’m not writing about infected, mindless people roaming the streets.
What I’m really talking about is something I heard over and over from the real life hero in my Lorado Martin Mystery Series. He often talks about the Zombie Apocalypse as a metaphor for a rising tide of drug abuse and crime.
Lorado works with recovering addicts and sees firsthand the toll drug abuse takes on people. Families are splintered apart as trust between spouses, brothers, even children and parents is shattered by lies and deceit. Many of these relationships can never be truly mended. Users rack up criminal records so long they can never hold a position of responsibility. Many lose their right to vote. When they finally get clean, many recovering addicts are resigned to life as second-class citizens. Portraying their struggles in Dinner At Deadman’s was heartrending work.
Why this happens and why the Zombie Apocalypse tag is so fitting is because some people are so powerless to hard drugs they have no choice but to feed their addiction at all costs. They mindlessly wander in search of money for their next fix, like the walkers in The Walking Dead, scouring the world for their next meal.
Lorado says that movie makers have been using zombies as a metaphor for drug users for years and that the population at large has yet to catch on. Whether you believe him or not, the push to legalize addictive drugs is more scary than any zombie movie.
Thirteen of fifty states have decriminalized marijuana. Politicians as disparate as Ron Paul and Rev. Jesse Jackson are calling to end the war on drugs. Senator Paul sees the drug war as an infringement on individual liberty, while politicians from the Congressional Black Caucus like Rep John Conyers see the war on drugs disproportionately targeting people of color. Actor Brad Pitt calls the war on drugs a charade.
With so many voices calling to legalize drugs, we have to wonder what would happen to our young people if they could go to a liquor store and buy heroin when they turn twenty-one. Would a cheaper, regulated source of heroin be any less devastating? Or would we be cultivating a crop of zombies that will roam the earth searching for their next fix?
Polls show about fifty percent of people favor legalization of marijuana and a smaller group favor legalization of heroin. Which side are you on? And what do you think would happen if we opened the floodgates and allowed anyone to go out and buy drugs?
C.J. West is the author of seven suspense novels including The End of Marking Time and Sin and Vengeance, which was optioned into development for film by Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor). C.J. blogs at www.cjwestkills.wordpress.com. You can also find him at www.22wb.com or at www.facebook.com/cjwestfans
November 18, 2012
The Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your (work in progress) book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Wolf’s Cut is the 5th novel in a series that began with Bram Stoker Award nominee Wolf’s Trap (then came Wolf’s Gambit, Wolf’s Bluff, and Wolf’s Edge). The first book was essentially intended as a stand-alone, but the second, third, and fourth books together form a loose trilogy. The ideas for this one (Wolf's Cut) came from both resolved and unresolved plot points in the other four books. This book will also be the start of a loose trilogy.
What genre does your book fall under?
Horror fits, but usually I prefer Horror-Thriller. It can also be considered Urban Fantasy, though of the very adult variety due to its graphic content.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is actually harder to answer than I thought. These days I don't usually write with a type in mind, although as I wrote Wolf's Trap in the late 90s/early 2000s I sometimes pictured my protagonist, Nick Lupo, as a young Andy Garcia. For his love interest, Dr. Jessie Hawkins, I pictured supermodel Cindy Crawford, minus the famous mole. If I were to cast the movie of Wolf's Cut today (it's years later than Wolf's Trap), I'd look for a 40-something Hugh Jackman type, but David Giuntoli (of NBC's GRIMM, where he also plays a cop named Nick) could fit. For Jessie I could see a combination of (TV-show CASTLE's) Stana Katic, plus an older version Megan Fox and/or Mila Kunis, but "earthy" – beautiful but not outwardly glamorous. Lupo's partner, Di Santo, would probably be a Ben Affleck type, able to be both serious and silly. In my series there's also a blonde bombshell TV news investigative reporter with, um, a very "developed" libido – for Heather Wilson I'd have to cast a Jenna Jameson type, although she could exhibit some Scarlett Johansson, Kate Upton and Julia Stegner qualities, too!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In Wolf's Cut, Nick Lupo has to face both the remnants of the evil Wolfpaw mercenary organization (with its roots way back in Nazi Germany and beyond) and a mob family that wants to take over the nearby reservation casino, finding a way to play one against the other.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My next book was sold to Samhain Publishing via the L. Perkins Agency. The first book was also reissued by Samhain, who also published the fourth (Wolf's Edge). The middle two books are now published by Amazon's 47North imprint.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It's in progress, so I'm still working on it! My first novel took about nine years. My second novel about nine months, third novel about seven months, and fourth about six. A lot depends on my day job, family and life crises, inspiration, other projects, and so on. But I'm definitely able to plot a novel faster than I used to be. This one will have taken me about seven-eight months when it's done.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Wolf's Hour, The Howling, and any fast-paced thriller that also includes horror, paranormal, and noir elements.
In this day and age, however, some of the newer Urban Fantasy series might be a closer parallel.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A huge inspiration on me was The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon, plus The Howling by Gary Brandner, Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I also have to give a shout-out to the TV show "Forever Knight," which gave me a blueprint.
But there's more. I was always most impressed – and frightened! – by the werewolf in the Universal monster movies such as "The Wolf-Man" and (later) "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." Larry Talbot was a tortured man, a reluctant monster – a true tragic figure. I related to his troubles and his fears. I could see how difficult it would be to try to get along when you were a slave to the Creature Within – and that struggle became a central part of my protagonist's character. I tried to look logically at how he could get along in the world, how he could learn to control the Creature without killing indiscriminately. It seemed to me that vampires tend to love being vampires, sort of like evil superheroes. I wondered why it couldn't be done with a "good" werewolf (who still has a bad side). When I started my fisrt novel, Wolf's Trap, almost no one was writing about werewolves. Now they seem to be gaining in popularity. I hope I had a tiny little bit to do with that. My first publisher, Leisure Books, only started adding werewolf novels after mine sold better than expected, so maybe I did…
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think my book(s) will interest anyone who likes the idea of a hero who is also a monster, anyone who is not afraid of graphic sex and violence, is interested in parallel stories (in the past and present), as well as multiple points of view, Nazi werewolves, and thriller elements such as fast pacing and lots of action. This new Work in Progress shouldn't be the first one you read, though: start with Wolf's Trap, or at least with the 2nd book, Wolf's Gambit. The books Gambit-Bluff-Edge should be read in order. This new book, Wolf's Cut, will be the next chapter in the Nick Lupo saga.
And now, check out the authors I have tagged and their blogs the week of November 26th:
David Bernstein - http://davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com/
Adam Cesare - http://www.adamcesare.com
John Everson - http://www.johneverson.com/wordplay/
Brian Moreland - http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com/
Brian Pinkerton - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/288505.Brian_Pinkerton/blog
My post is going up between November 19-23rd, so the 5 authors I've invited will do the same a week later. I've linked back to my inviter, Debbi Mack, and at left I also include links to my 5 tags.
How this works, in step form:
1. I write a blog answering those questions, and put links to the blogs of 5 others whom I invite. I also credit my inviter.
2. You write a blog answering those questions and put links to 5 others of your choice, as well as linking back to my blog.
You are now finished!
3. The 5 authors you invite answer the questions; each one puts that blog up the week after yours goes up and each one credits you as the inviter & puts a link to your blog.
4. They in turn tag 5 other authors, & the cycle continues.
So, you're done once you put your own blog up and list your 5 authors.
The idea is that each person gets shouted out a) as an invited author, and then b) 5 times as the one who invited.
June 30, 2012
By Benjamin Kane Ethridge
I discovered Tom Savage back in the late 90s during the dismantling of all book sections in Wherehouse Music stores. The liquidation made for incredible deals. One or two dollars on paperbacks, maybe five for a hardcover. I was in bookworm heaven. I discovered many new authors through this windfall, and because I’d come by them so easily, I felt bonded to the titles, a pirate with his chest of ill-gotten doubloons.
Tom Savage, not to be confused with the Western author of the same name, was a mystery and thriller writer. Hollywood made a movie I never watched (the reviews were enough to sour my desire) based on his superb slasher-thriller Valentine. It’s my favorite book of his— well, an eyelash away from The Inheritance— but the point is, I read all of Savage’s works and enjoyed them to the core.
I was floored in particular by Valentine though. Great suspense. Great structure. Great twists and turns. Great book. It was so well done I let all my family and friends borrow it. Man, how they read this book and quick! My girlfriend, later to become my wife, read it in two days and she doesn’t ever read fiction. Ever. Did I mention ever?
The paperback’s spine was in absolute shreds.
Seeing how this novel was gobbled up reinforced to me that a writer can pull even the most unlikely audiences into his or her den. So what happen next completely puzzled me…
Despite Savage’s word wizardry and power, just around the turn of the millennium he abandoned fiction. Now, I don’t know if I can make that statement completely in earnest, but according to Amazon all I find is a trail of children’s textbooks with an occasional 1990s murder mystery peeking out between the titles. This was confusing to me and, thinking more on this, I decided perhaps my infatuation with Savage’s writing was the reason for this confusion. He must have been a very well kept secret that I had the rare privilege in knowing.
I looked online and found countless forums of fans, not legions to be sure, but the man had a following. People who loved his stuff— loved it the same way I did. So why did he leave? Did he do it just for money only? Textbooks pay mightily more than fiction, so there’s that. But that’s a boring reason. Money? Bah. Hey, but speaking of boring, maybe it was that. Maybe the departure from fiction stemmed from boredom or lack of ideas? His book Scavenger, though effective when held against most thriller writing, was not classic Savage. Yet, even for a dud, it was pretty good.
Whatever the excuse, nothing jives for me. A decade has passed now for cripes sake… wouldn’t you think Tom Savage would want to write another novel for his adoring fans?
It’s very possible I’m still mired in my own idol worship, a victim and perpetrator of the “love me” syndrome many writers have. We crave people to enjoy and adore our stories. The writer who writes only for herself is a loathsome beast in our eyes. Share. Why don’t you share, Miss Stingy?! When they politely answer, “Nah, no thanks,” it’s an awfully slippery idea to wrap our minds around.
But it doesn’t stop with Savage. Another of my favorite writers, Thomas Ligotti, has also merrily skipped down the trail, leaving that shadowy storyteller forest behind him, no care to even glance back (I assume forever, but hope I’m wrong).
The transgressions of our literary heroes, at least in regard to what is or is not on the page, can crumble the heart at times. It’s taken me a while to find out why; the love-me factor mentioned earlier is a prevailing step in that direction, but not the cut and dry answer.
Barring death, which still forces unimaginable dreams of what might have been, we can come to accept why new books cannot be born. However, with those writers whose hearts still beat and whose lungs still breathe air and whose fingers are still perfectly capable of pushing keys on a keyboard… I personally see this evasion as a form of cruel punishment, and surely I’m not the only one.
We need (please, please) these artists to come back with more of their art. But why does it matter? Why can’t we shrug and say, “Well, I’m just happy with what I have?” What real difference does it make?
You will seldom find a child content spending a decade with wonderful parents, only to be later turned out to the cold world, alone. And my gripe with AWOL writers is exactly the same. We the readers have been orphaned. Feeling childlike again, full to bursting with wonder, these storytellers were the surrogate parents to our imaginations, if for a short time. Now, with their most careless escape, we wander the real estate they claimed in our hearts, hoping to find more territory. Because, well, we must find out how the untold stories really end.
It screws with us.
It screws with me, anyway.
What can a reader do about this, though? Grin and bear it? Grit our teeth and pout? Neither will help. There are many other authors to discover— but really now, that relationship will be different, won’t it?
Anyhow, melodramatics aside for a second or two, if Tom Savage ever does write another thriller, I have a plan. When and if I walk past the new novel in a bookstore, I will stop, glance at the blood speckled cover and huff. Where were you when I needed you? I will continue to shop, head held high, nose tilted at a proper angle.
And then, later, I will subconsciously find my way back to the bookshelf and pretend to be surprised. As soon as I determine nobody is looking, I will snatch up the book and crush it over my heart. Breathe in the fresh pulpy air.
So glad to be home again.
Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel BLACK & ORANGE (Bad Moon Books 2010) and BOTTLED ABYSS (Redrum Horror 2012). For his master's thesis he wrote, "CAUSES OF UNEASE: The Rhetoric of Horror Fiction and Film." Available in an ivory tower near you. Benjamin lives in Southern California with his wife and two creatures who possess stunning resemblances to human children. When he isn't writing, reading, videogaming, Benjamin's defending California's waterways and sewers from pollution.
Say hi and drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
June 16, 2012
I read things, whether in print or with my Kindle. I always have and I always will. I love books and read 3-5 of them a week if I have time, and can't go to sleep unless I've read for at least an hour a night no matter how late and no matter where I am.
Before last February I swore I'd never buy a Kindle and had no desire to read inferior eBooks. I was old school, damnit, and I'm in my forties and too old to change now. Then Kim bought me a Kindle and I fell in love and can't imagine life without it.
I swore I'd never listen to an audio book as well. What use was that when I still had good eyes to relax and read with? I didn't want to hear some strange voice reading to me. I wasn't four anymore and needing mommy to read me a bedtime story. I was a big boy and could now read to myself.
But, as an author, I'm always looking for new ways to connect with readers. It seemed like every eBook I added to Kindle someone wanted the link for the B&N version or SmashWords or Lulu. So I spread my work around to appease the masses (said tongue in cheek, I promise).
Then someone asked if I had any of my books available on audio. I answered, truthfully, not yet, but I was working on it. As in, as soon as you asked me the question I started working on it.
I spent days and nights researching the various ways to get a quality audio book together, and decided right away I had neither the voice nor the equipment to do it myself. I needed a… wait, what did they call them again? Oh, yeah, a Narrator.
So I signed up on a site and posted a sample chapter of my Dying Days zombie novella, figuring it would be a perfect place to start. Besides, that was the book the reader asked about, so I was hoping I'd have one sale from it.
I also put out a blanket call on Facebook and Twitter in case anyone was interested in narrating it and had a good voice. If I could throw some work at someone I already knew, so much the better, right?
Then I started getting narrators interested and sending me samples of the work. As soon as I started listening I realized something: I had no idea if they were good or not. I'd never listened to a book in my life.
So I bought three of the cheapest horror and/or thriller audio books I could find and listened to them and heard what I liked and hated about the narrators and style.
I decided what made sense for Dying Days would be a female narrator since our main character, Darlene Bobich, is a female. That made sense. I had several to choose from and a couple narrators were pretty good, but one above all else intrigued me.
Amanda Lehman. I loved her sample and knew her voice well. The reason? I grew up across the street from her. How weird is that? We both grew up on Orchard Avenue in Belford, New Jersey, directly across the street. I hung out with her older brother as a kid and we all played kickball and football and manhunt at night.
I hadn't seen or spoken to her in probably twenty years. She'd married a guy I knew that was always cool, played bass, had long hair, a crazy dry sense of humor and loved Queensryche as much as I did. Alexis was the man, and the handful of times we hung out we had some fun. Heck, somewhere is a demo tape of me screaming into a mic doing Metal/hardcore crap with Alexis putting it all together musically.
Amanda was a few years younger than me, and I even remember her parents bringing her home from the hospital when she was born. Now, here she was, dropping the F bomb reading my story and making it come to life.
Out of everyone in the world who could potentially read Dying Days, she'd grown up a kickball throw away. And I couldn’t be happier with her reading and look forward to her diving into Dying Days 2 at some point as well.
Funny how life is sometimes stranger than fiction.
All six of us - Todd Brown, Mark Tufo, Ian Woodhead, Armand Rosamilia, John O'Brien and Dave Jeffery - hope you'll keep following us on the Summer of Zombie blog tour, and comment as we go along.
And… one lucky commenter for each blog will receive a Free eBook or Print book from one of the authors! Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and we'll pick a random winner each day! Simple as that!
May 28, 2012
In Service to My Masters by David Benton
Some days (weeks, months) managing it can seem almost impossible. Once you reach a certain age maintaining all of your responsibilities becomes a daunting task. This is true for everyone I know. Juggling home ownership, kids, pets, career, bills, and relationships can be a real drag. Even tackling only some of the aforementioned items can feel like a daily quest to the summit of Mt. Everest. But for those people who were blessed (cursed) with a creative bent, the day to day drudgery becomes compounded by the sting of the Muses’ whip.
Unfortunately I’m one of those people.
Like most, I struggle endlessly with very little monetary reimbursement or notoriety for my efforts. Yet somehow in the spaces between the day job, keeping track of my kids, making sure my pets don’t feel neglected, mowing the lawn -- and even occasionally eating and sleeping -- my hands always find a computer keypad or a fretboard to rest upon. Music and writing are my task masters (sometimes I even get a chance to blow the dust off of my air brush!), and they punish me with mental anguish when I don’t heed their call.
I had thought that writing horror fiction and playing hard rock would be a perfect marriage. After all, they go so well together. But I find that music and writing are very different art forms, each requiring a different set of skills and switching gears can be difficult. Music (in performance) is an art of moments, each beat sweeping away the last. One moment’s triumph or tragedy is instantly replaced by the next set of notes. Writing, on the other hand, requires more careful consideration. Words have to be crafted in such a way that conveys a vision from writer to reader. Both, when done exceptionally well, can carry a real emotional impact. And the effort to do both well eats a lot of time. It’s time that I really don’t have to spare, but somehow I fit it in by shifting everything to accommodate it.
I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person – and that being the case – I oftentimes find myself wishing the demons were less demanding. If only I could be happy just going to work and coming home to relax in front of my TV! Then I could find a career and worry more about my pay stub and less about whether or not I could get a month off to go on tour. Then I could get an even bigger TV! My neighbors wouldn’t complain about my lawn because I was at rehearsals or working off a writing deadline and didn’t have a chance to cut the grass. I could be at my daughter’s recital instead of playing a show halfway across the state (or world). But of course, then I wouldn’t be me.
You might wonder why I’m complaining. After all it was my choice, right? The answer to that is: NO. To steal a line from Charles Bukowski: You don’t choose writing, writing chooses you. And the same can be said for music, or art, or dance, or theater. You don’t choose, you are chosen. Much like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind building a replica of the Devil’s Tower out of a pile of mashed potatoes, I am compelled, obsessed, and in need of an intervention. In fact I stopped playing music for four years. I sold all of my gear. I thought I was done. But the hooks were already set too deep. I came back to it. It was waiting for me (waiting for me to write the opus that the aliens are feeding into my brain).
I find that even moderate success comes with a staggering price tag. And that the cost must be paid not only by me, but also by everyone close to me, whether by choice or circumstance (sincerest apologies to my friends and family who have to put up with my madness).
You see, being an artist (writer, musician) isn’t something that I do; it’s something that I am. Being creative is more akin to being tall, or nice, or talkative than it is with having made a career choice. I can decide if I want to be a bricklayer or cheesemaker, a doctor or lawyer. But, much like being Indian, or Egyptian, or French, creative is something that you are or you aren’t – there is no choice.
I’m not driving the bus, you see. I’m being driven. You gotta let that boy boogie, ‘cause it’s in him and it’s gotta come out!
If I could choose, I would choose a life that was more…simple.
And then come those black-hearted Muses with their whip, putting me to task…
David Benton is currently the touring bass player for the heavy metal novelty band Beatallica, as well as playing in the Milwaukee area with the hard rock trio CHIEF. His horror fiction collaborations with W.D. Gagliani are collected in the Mysteries & Mayhem ebook and in the mid-grade novel I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter. More work in both fields is always on the horizon.
May 12, 2012
By Kristopher Rufty
Other than being asked where my ideas come from, one thing I’m asked a lot is: “Am I in your book?” or “Was the character ________ based off of you?” Most of the time the answer is No, but there have been instances where I’ve borrowed from real life and turned them into fantasy. I’m sure I’ll do it again, many times, as well.
Back when I penned the first draft of Angel Board I was working as a manager for Office Depot. So, during the plotting stages I decided early on that David, the main character, would also be an office supply manager for a chain of stores known as Office Warehouse. While working for the Depot we hired an employee by the name of Dane, who later became a dear friend of mine, and also made his way into the book as the character of Martin. The baler wire incident that occurs in the book was a sensationalized account of what happened to me while making a cardboard bale. The wire snapped and lashed at my face, and if I wouldn’t have jumped backwards, the tip might have gotten me. I felt the wind on my eye as the wire just missed plucking it right out of my head.
Actually, the baler incident was what inspired all of Angel Board. It started with that one scene and everything else branched from there.
My recent release, PillowFace, is also very loosely based on fact. I took myself as a twelve year old kid and put him in today’s world. It was kind of fun imagining me as a kid and being surrounded by the technology we have today. When I was growing up, Cable TV and VHS were changing the world. Watching horror movies on Cinemax during their Full Moon Fridays series was a crucial part of my growing up, and as I began writing the book, I learned there is nothing like that out there now. The closest we have to Full Moon Friday today is Fearnet and Chiller. VHS has already become American nostalgia and Cable TV is ridiculously priced.
But, growing up in the sticks, and without internet, what I didn’t have in technology, I made for with imagination. My friends Chad and Eric (two guys that lived in the same vicinity as me) and I would spend our summers in the woods, hiking to a public pool that was located two roads over from my house. Instead of having our parents drive us, we walked on our own, and the best part was our parents didn’t mind. We were so isolated that the fear someone might be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snatch up your kids was absent. We stuck to the trail. It was an hour or more hike but we enjoyed every step of it.
The biggest worry we had were snakes. There were a lot of snakes where I grew up.
On our trips to the pool, and just our time spent in the woods riding dirt bikes, hiking the trails, and just being kids, we’d have some of the goofiest conversations, much like the trio of kids in PillowFace. Talking about horror movies, girls, and porno mags that we one day wanted to score, we’d travel the woods, searching for whatever we might find. The scarier, the better. And of course, we were not above the secluded wood nymph that might be hiding in the trees. In fact, we were driven by the possibility of finding some kind of beautiful forest woman who may be able to grant our wishes.
Well…I was anyway. I don’t believe I ever shared that vision with my friends.
So, taking such aspects of my childhood, the character Joel Olsen was born. A twelve year old horror fan with the dream of one day being a special effects artist. Although I was raised with two parents for the majority of my childhood, they did eventually divorce in my early teenage years. And while they were together, they both worked when I was old enough to be left home alone during the summers until around four o’clock. I’d have the whole day to myself while my sister was at summer daycare. In the book, Joel has lost his parents in a car accident and is being raised by Haley, his twenty-three year old sister. She’s just starting her career path and is now forced to become not just Joel’s older sister, but also his parent. She doesn’t cope well, and Joel spends a lot of time home alone as well.
And for Joel…that isn’t a good thing.
While my parents would be working I’d spend the majority of my time playing guitar or clacking away on a typewriter that weighed close to forty pounds (no lie) the adventures I wished I could take in real life.
And as grotesque as it is, PillowFace is one of those adventures. When I set out to write the book I asked myself: “What would have happened if I would have discovered someone like PillowFace when I was twelve years old?”
Not knowing the answer, I sat down to write PillowFace, and the book escalated from there. What I learned is a twelve year old can make awful decisions on his own.
Kristopher Rufty wrote and directed the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and is also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace and The Lurkers. He also hosts Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film. The show has been online for nearly five years now and has developed quite an archive list and following. He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog Thor and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.
April 29, 2012
I came to fiction rather late in life. After 50 (the late 1990s) I realized that save for a few required novels back in college, I hadn’t read much fiction, but had focused on non-fiction—history, how to do books, etc. Whatever writing I’d done suffered from the foggy lingo of “academese.” Then I bought a bunch of Easton books—you know, those wonderful leather editions, etc. Soon after I was immersing myself in literary fiction as well as 50 or so books on writing fiction, and took part in several online crit groups. I did take one useless graduate class on fiction writing. After a few dozen short stories and a dozen or so published by obscure magazines, I thought I’d write one about the stereotypical private eye, but had no basis for the character beyond a few Bogie films. So, I scoured out a bunch of sales and bookstores and read over 50 different PI tales. I joined Private Eye Writers of America after I’d done a couple of PI short stories. All the advice I got was to make my PI stand out from the others—make him different, yet keep within the genre limits.
I fell in love with all things Raymond Chandler. I still read him and find him fresh and enchanting. Even though I liked his mentor, Dashiell Hammett, and was chilled some by Mickey Spillane, I thought Chandler lifted the PI genre to a higher plane, a literary plane.
The PI is a descendant of the Wild West gunslinger hero, a loner who had to keep peace by his six-shooter, fists and courage. A loner against lawlessness. Moving into the 1920s and 30s the PI was still a loner, but now fought against political and urban corruption as well as other crime. Save for a few rare passages, when it came to sex, the PI’s I read about just faded to black after some flirtation. I didn’t want to write porno, but had enough poetry in my prose to take the sex scenes further, and try to write them well without too much graphic description. I see this as a major change from the traditional PI tale, and one that’s perhaps more accepted today. I still seek to write in the mainstream of the genre, however.
While writing my first PI short stories, I discovered I too was a loner, loving the kick-in-the-ass, anti-PC aspects of the genre. They were a blast to write! My first novel, Dark Quarry, resulted from the “stitching” together of 4 short tales of PI’s. Not something I’d recommend as it was so much work, but it got me past my anxiety about writing anything as long as a novel.
Mike Angel is a romantic with a weakness for a wide variety of dames, especially those in trouble. He began as an investigator at the young age of 30, taking up his late father’s ambition to establish an elite agency. He changed his name from D’Angelo to Angel upon the murder of his father. Mike’s other quest, if it is one, is to find the perfect love, though even after it’s clear that he’s succeeded, he struggles against commitment and losing choices. He also struggles about his career choice, his failings for women in trouble, and his suitability for Molly. He’s somewhat of a cynic like other PI’s but not completely so. At times he’s downright moonstruck. Like other tough guys he had a weakness for the bottle, too, but overcame that after drying out at a sanitarium.
I also differentiate Mike with a touch of the supernatural—after taking up his late father’s cross Mike “hears” his voice in times of imminent danger. He also gained a long scar on his jaw from hunting down his dad’s killer. Dad “tells” him that he may warn Mike about dangerous situations through sensations in the scar, especially when St. Peter has limited his “quota of words.” Mike knows the voice is his dad’s, that it’s heard only by him, but isn’t quite sure if he’s inventing it as a way of holding on to his father or that he’s going nuts, strain from investigations. He doesn’t hear the voice at other times, usually, so isn’t sure how real it is. Mike’s ambivalent about investigating as a career but secretly enjoys the violence sometimes involved. Big cases are his meat. The “voice” and his love of violence are restraining elements that keep him from fully committing to Molly Bennett, his rose-colored-glasses love interest.
My Mike Angel Mystery novels (having finished 7 now) have been compared to Chandler, Spillane, and others. For me this is the highest compliment, but no one will attain Chandler in my estimation. I’ve also been influenced by John Lutz, and Loren Estleman.
Along the way I developed Mike’s partner and alter-ego, Rick Anthony, a retired NYPD detective and partner of Mike’s late father. Rick is over-educated with a stunning vocabulary, and a horndog for his age (in his 60s). Molly Bennett became their office whiz—she’s permanently optimistic, a judo student (brown belt) and is convinced she’s the right woman to settle down with Mike. Yet, she gives him enough rope to slowly reel him in. These two main characters were built from Mike’s influence, and met the sorts of traits that he might do well with. Still a loner by instinct, he appreciates Rick’s analytical balance and 29 years of NY street experience.
Putting together a PI character has been fun and productive. I know just what Mike will say and do in any situation now—as I do the other two main figures in the stories. Mark Twain said to create good characters and turn them loose. Mike, Molly, and Rick often ask me to begin another episode. When I do, they simply take the ball and run with it.
David H Fears
By way of a bio, David Fears adds:
Back in 1971 I discovered that Mark Twain had traveled through my hometown in 1895 on the way to his world tour to get out of debt. That seed began to grow until in 2004 I began what has become a monumental, 4-volume work, Mark Twain Day By Day, an annotated chronology in the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Each volume (3 are now published) is 1150-1250 pages, and sell to universities, libraries, societies, and Mark Twain scholars. Just before I got into the Twain writing, I began writing short stories, a few of which morphed into a hardboiled private eye detective novel. After studying hundreds of such books, and admiring Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane's work, I wrote four of them--and oh! how much fun they were to write. No one had to be politically correct, and the protagonist was driven to live up to his father's legacy--he was too young to be a PI at the start (30), but he had the help of his late father's detective partner on the NYPD, and the love of a good woman who was willing to wait until wild oats were sewn. So I got totally wrapped up in these characters. I believe good mysteries must be complex page turners; hardboiled should have the protagonist fighting corruption. There's sex, violence, and psychological reflection in my novels. I also studied composition theory, and read thousands of short stories. I taught writing at two for-profit colleges. Like Mark Twain, I love cats, am father to 3 girls, and am a westerner who has lived in various parts of the country.
April 18, 2012
I live with a cold blooded killer. I haven’t turned him in to the cops because he’s my cat, Tegan.
He’s on a roll at the moment. It’s spring and that means young and inexperienced creatures are poking their heads from their protective homes and Tegan is there to bite them off. I spent last week picking up the chewed remains of mice, rats, birds and a lizard. As soon as I’d drop a carcass in the trash, he’d have the remains of something else dangling from his jaws.
“Tegan, you git. Stop killing things.”
He’d look at me with a typical cat arrogance that said, “Yeah, right.”
After I’d dealt with his latest trophy and sat down, he joined me on the couch for cuddle and a purr (okay, I purr. It’s what I do). I stared into his big eyes and I looked for a sign of remorse and obviously saw none. Morally, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He’s an animal and his genetic code is programmed with the need to hunt and kill—irrespective of how much kibble I give him. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. But he takes lives on a pretty regular basis without a hint of killer’s repentance.
That chilled my human sensibilities.
Transpose Tegan’s killer instinct to a person and that person wouldn’t be a cute, furry companion, that person would be a psychopath, no ifs or buts. Tegan can wander in from a kill, snuggle up to me for companionship then clean up the two kittens he’s rearing. Sounds cool for a cat, because we accept this as cat behavior, but we don’t accept this behavior in all things. Substitute a person for Tegan and Tegan’s behavior would present a very different picture. Imagine a father like any other caring for his family while there is still blood under his fingernails. This is serial killer country.
People always ask, ‘where do you get your ideas?’ I don’t have to trawl through the aisles of the true crime section to learn about killers, or even experience terrible events. Sometimes, I don’t have to leave the house.
Stories are out there waiting to be discovered. Anything and everything can be the ignition source for a story. It’s all about watching the world around me and seeing how things interact and what everyone else misses. Usually, it’s the little things that people miss that make for the best stories. With a little ingenuity, the mundane can become the extraordinary.
So Tegan could be the genesis for a very nasty killer. All it takes is a little imagination and a dash of transposition. :-)
Yours on golden pondering,
Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. Simon has had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and has garnered him an Anthony Award and a CWA Dagger Award nomination, as well as several readers’ choice awards. He’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. He’s the author of WORKING STIFFS, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, PAYING THE PIPER, WE ALL FALL DOWN, TERMINATED and ASKING FOR TROUBLE. As Simon Janus, he’s the author of THE SCRUBS and ROAD RASH. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net
April 9, 2012
Monsters and Me
By Brian Pinkerton
Blame it on the babysitter. Or perhaps the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. You see, it all started like this. When I was little, my parents routinely escaped the terrors of three rowdy young boys by going downtown on Saturday nights to enjoy the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Our teenage babysitter did what most teenage babysitters would do, she turned on the television to distract us from tearing up the house.
And that is how we discovered WGN-TV’s Creature Features, a weekly offering of monster movies unlike anything we had ever seen before. I recall the first movie to dent my brain was War of the Gargantuas, a Japanese epic about two enormous ogres (one green, one brown) battling it out in Tokyo, shoving one another into crumbling skyscrapers as the military counterattacked with tanks, bombs and lasers. The mayhem was positively thrilling and left a lasting mark. (Imagine my surprise during this year’s Oscars telecast when Brad Pitt declared the same movie to be a cherished memory from his childhood.)
In the following weeks and months, Creature Features introduced me to many of the Universal classics of the 1930s and 1940s, and I relished in their moody, black and white worlds. My hunger for monster movies extended to the cheapie 1950s and 1960s horrors regularly screened on Saturday afternoons on fuzzy UHF channels – dumb but compelling films like Attack of the Puppet People and Death Curse of Tartu.
When an elementary school classmate excitedly told me about a terrifying TV movie featuring a haunted house, it became my mission to track it down. He described the chilling scene of a woman hearing a baby crying in the middle of the night and tracing it to a jar of glowing red goo in an old shed.
I combed the TV Guide for the movie’s reappearance and when it showed up for a late night rerun, I pestered my parents into letting me stay up to watch it in exchange for a nap earlier in the day. The movie was indeed super eerie and many years later I discovered the director was none other than Steven Spielberg. The title is Something Evil, one of Spielberg’s earliest, most obscure films and to this day it remains unreleased on DVD, adding to its vague, dream-like existence.
I remember my other personal entries into the world of horror: the fantastic wolf man painting on the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland # 99, gleefully out of place among the ladies magazines stocked at the local grocery store…Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing comic book…Jack Kirby’s The Demon…television’s Kolchak The Night Stalker…short stories by Richard Matheson.
Whenever my interest in horror waned, there would be something unexpected to rev it back up. I remember seeing the original Halloween in a theater packed with shrill teenagers screaming in unison like a massive chorus – it remains one of the most electrifying movie experiences of my life.
I found bad movies endearing, too, and grew particularly fond of Ed Wood films before he became a household name. There are still people who won’t forgive me for making them watch Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Some passions of my childhood dissipated over time but somehow the monsters endured. There is something about the thrill of a safe scare that invigorates us in our stale, ordinary adult lives. We all like fake frights with a soft landing because there are too many real terrors in everyday life – just watch the evening news.
The classic horror films continue to reach new audiences through their original incarnations, sequels and remakes. (A new version of I Spit on Your Grave? Seriously?) Zombies are back in style (TV’s Walking Dead), vampires are hot (the Twilight books and movies) and werewolves haven’t lost their bite (Bill Gagliani’s wonderful Nick Lupo series).
My passions inevitably become my creative outlets. As a writer, my earliest novels were suspense thrillers (I also love Hitchcock) but more recently I have been creating horror stories with satisfying results.
My newest book, Rough Cut, is a big, affectionate tribute to the world of horror movies. It features a deadly rivalry between two horror directors – a legendary ‘80s slasher filmmaker and a contemporary “torture porn” hotshot. There are references to everything from Bela Lugosi to Blair Witch.
Rough Cut has got horror, humor and heart…it’s my letter to the genre that has kept me wonderfully entertained for so many years.
Brian Pinkerton is the author of Rough Cut (Bad Moon Books), as well as Abducted, Vengeance, and Killing the Boss. He can be found at http://www.brianpinkerton.com. Please see a purchase link for Rough Cut at left. Link for the Rough Cut paperback: http://www.badmoonbooks.com/product.php?productid=2317.